Learn and Generate Bibliographies, Citations, and Works Cited

Understanding the Basics of Chicago/Turabian Citations


Overview of Editorial Styles

Students encounter several different citation styles for formatting essays and research papers. However, even though there are editorial citation styles for every research field, students will use three primary styles: APA, MLA and Chicago/Turabian.

Student learning the Basics of Chicago/Turabian Citations

APA Format Citation Style

APA style is developed by the American Psychological Association (APA) for research in education, social and behavioral sciences. These style rules are laid out in the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association. APA citation format uses the author-date style with in-text citations and corresponding reference sources.

MLA Citation Format

MLA style is created by the Modern Language Association for humanities studies. The MLA Handbook is the official manual for this style. MLA uses a flexible container system using nine core elements.


Chicago Style is published by the University of Chicago Press and is the most extensive of the three citation styles. The Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS), 17th Edition is over a thousand pages, including its bibliography. There is a student version of Chicago called Turabian style after the author of A Manual for Writers, Kate L. Turabian. Students often are confused if they’re asked to use the Turabian style; however, it is the same as Chicago style. Since CMOS is written for publishers, it contains a lot more information for writers than students need, so using the shorter version is easier.

Chicago/Turabian Types of Style

Chicago or CMOS is the most complicated of the three styles, as it consists of two different bibliographic formats:


  • Simple to use
  • Used for physical, natural and social sciences writing

This Chicago/Turabian style follows a basic author-date style. Essentially, both the parenthetical and source citation place the author’s name first, followed by the year of publication.


Notes-Bibliography is an extensive notes bibliographic style:

  • Notes can be formatted as endnotes or footnotes.
  • Used for history, literature and the arts.
  • Note numbers are placed within the text, then information about the source is placed at the end of the chapter or at the bottom of the page.
  • Each note is cited within a bibliography at the end of the paper.

You may notice some publications have notes but no bibliography listed at the end. This is a decision made by the publisher. Some papers may use both footnotes and endnotes in the research paper.  If you use notes-biblio in your school paper, follow your teacher’s instructions.

Understanding Chicago/Turabian Style

If you’re writing a paper for your school, it’s best to consult A Manual for Writers, by Turabian. This book is designed to help students format your paper, parenthetical citations and bibliography.

As with all citation styles, you need to cite sources for these reasons:

  • Credit your sources
  • Verify the accuracy of data
  • Guide your readers to the sources
  • Show existing research

No matter what style you’re using, you need to evaluate your sources and learn the difference between primary and secondary sources.


Chicago notes style uses a bibliography rather than a reference list. Bibliographies contain sources of all the works consulted to prepare a research paper. References and Works Cited contain only those sources actually cited within a paper.

Bibliographies can be full papers on their own. Your teacher may ask you to prepare an annotated bibliography as a separate research project. Annotated bibliographies are also a great resource for you to find good sources for your own paper.

Sectioning Bibliographies

Although bibliographies and reference lists are listed in alphabetical order by the author’s last name, they can also be sectioned by type of work. This is very helpful to find a certain reference work or religious work, for example. The CMOS is sectioned by the type of work. Sections include:

  • Works on Writing and Editing

*subsections include grammar and usage

  • General Reference Works

*subsections include Biography and Geography

Reference List

The author-date style is a simpler way to cite sources. If you’re formatting a Chicago/Turabian author-date paper, you’ll list the actual sources you used in the paper. The author’s name and date of publication are the first elements in both the parenthetical citation and its corresponding source citation in the reference list.

Your instructor will tell you which style to use in your classes. Occasionally, you’ll make your own choice. In this case, review the descriptions of each style and figure out which works best for you.

You will encounter Chicago style within books and articles that you consult for your paper. These sources are really good for research because they have a lot of resources for you to look up for further research.

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About the author

Adrienne Mathewson

Adrienne Mathewson, Editor-in-Chief of Bibliography.com, is an Information Professional with a Master’s in Library, Information & Science from San José State University with an emphasis on information literacy and scholarly publishing. She is a certified librarian through the State of New Mexico.

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