How to Format A Chicago Paper

Putting a full-blown research paper together is no easy feat. While you're preoccupied with producing sound and quality research, detailed citation and formatting guidelines needs to be taken into consideration by academics and students also.

Adhering to the list of formatting requirements that abide by professional research paper publication standards is key in producing a research paper, be it the American Psychology Association, Modern Language Association, or Chicago Manual of Style guidelines for formatting. Details about important elements such as line-spacing, titles, headers, sub-headers, acronyms, footnotes, endnotes, bibliography and resources, and so on need to be taken into careful consideration.

If you're writing in The Chicago Manual of Style formatting, this article takes you through what a Chicago style research paper is and the necessary formatting elements it encompasses.

What is Chicago Format?

The Chicago Manual of Style, or CMOS, is a style guide for American English, and was published since 1906 by the University of Chicago Press.

Many publishers around the world adopt the Chicago formatting style for various writing and publishing purposes. It is used in some social science publications, historical journals, and is commonly used for citing sources in History, Humanities, and the Science fields.

How is Chicago Format used?

The Chicago Manual of Style is primarily intended as a style guide for published works rather than class papers. It is most well-known for its use of footnotes, that allow for more in-depth information and quicker access to citation information.

Rules and Guidelines of Chicago Format

Formatting Elements

FontUse a simple and readable font, such as Times New Roman in font size 12.
Margins1-inch margins on all sides.
SpacingDouble-space the text.
ParagraphingIndent the first line of each paragraph by half an inch from the left margin.
QuotationsProse quotations that are five or more lines (or more than 100 words), as well as poetry quotations of two or more lines, should be presented as block quotes.
Do not use quotation marks for block quotes. Place a blank line to separate them from the surrounding text on both sides, and indent by an additional ½ inch. Do not double-space them.
Page numbersPlace page numbers in the top right of pages.
Text alignmentText should be left-aligned, not “justified” (the right margin should look ragged).
AbbreviationsWhen introducing acronyms for the first time in your writing, use it's full form the first time you use it. Afterwhich, when you mention it again, you can use the acronym alone.
Figures and TablesPosition the figure or table within the body of your assignment and number them consecutively as they appear in your assignment.
In text, identify the tables and figures by number (ie. " in figure 1") rather than by location (ie. " below")
Paper size8.5 inch x 11 inch paper, white paper.

Title Page

While it is not required for Chicago formatted papers to have a title page and it would be sufficient to have a title placed at the top of your first page, there are guidelines you could follow if you have been instructed to include a title page by your mentors or teachers.

For a title page, all the text should be aligned to the center and double-spaced, and also written in the typeface you choose to write your main text in. Place your title about a third way down the page with headline capitalization and in bold.

If your paper requires a subtitle, close your main title with a colon and place the subtitle after that on a following line, also in bold and in the same size as the main title's text.

If you have been instructed to add any information, such as your name, student code, the course name, the date, etc, place this about two-thirds of the way down the page. Make sure that each new piece of information appears on a fresh line.

The title page should not have a page number, but it should be included in the page count—in other words, the page numbering starts on page 2.


Headings and subheadings help organize and structure your writing. Generally, longer and more complex papers warrant more headings and sub-headings than shorter ones for organization.

When you use headings in Chicago styles papers, use headline capitalization. For example, instead of "Summary of findings", use "Summary of Findings".

Together with that, differentiate your headings by using different levels of heading for different sections such as chapters, sub-sections, or sub-headings. Make sure your presentation makes clear which type of heading each one is.

Present headings in one level in the same, consistent way, and headings in the next level in the same way. Higher-level headings should stand out more from the text. For example, you can make use a larger font for chapter headings, bold for section headings, and italics for subheadings; clearly differentiating them.

For example, your headings could look like:

1Bold, Flushed Or Aligned With The Left Margin, Title Cased
2Normal, Flushed Or Aligned With The Left Margin, Title Cased
3Normal, Italicized, Flushed Or Aligned With The Left Margin, Title Cased


The Chicago formatting guidelines recommend that writer use words instead of numerals for numbers lower than 100. For example, write “eighty-six,” instead of “86.”

However, numerals should still be used when you’re referring to a specific measurement (e.g., “23 cm”) and when using decimals (e.g., “4.7”).


When introducing acronyms for the first time in your writing, use it's full form the first time you use it. Afterwhich, when you mention it again, you can use the acronym alone.

Neither numerals nor acronyms should be used at the beginning of a sentence. Rewrite the sentence so that the numeral or acronym appears elsewhere in the sentence, or write out the full phrase or number.

For example, instead of "50 people responded to the poll.", use "Fifty people responded to the survey." or "The poll received 50 responses."

In-text Citation

The Chicago formatting guidelines provide margins for two citation styles:

  1. Author-date with a Reference List
  2. Notes and Bibliography

Author-date Style

In the author-date style, citations are placed directly in the text in parentheses. The parenthetical citations in the text is used to reference the source's author's last name and the year of publication.

With this style, you have flexibility about how you would like to integrate the citation in your main body text.

Reference List

A reference list is mandatory in Chicago author-date style, where you cite sources in parentheses in the text.

The reference list is headed as “References.” In reference list entries, the publication date is placed immediately after the author’s name. This allows the reader to easily find a reference on the basis of the corresponding in-text citation.

The References list should be alphabetized by authors last name to make it easy to find a citation referred to in a parenthetical reference used in the Author-Date format. However, if a source has no named author, alphabetize by the first word of the title or organization name that starts the entry.

Notes and Bibliography Style

In the notes and bibliography style, citations appear as Chicago footnotes or endnotes, and readers can refer to them by superscript numbers in the text. This style uses numbered footnotes in the text to direct readers to a shortened citation at the bottom of the page. This then corresponds to a fuller and longer citation on a Bibliography page that comes at the end of the entire document.

Footnote and endnote numbers appear at the end of the relevant clause or sentence. However, place them after any punctuation (except a dash).

While endnotes appear on their own page just before the bibliography page, footnotes are placed at the bottom of each page. Footnotes are to be separated from the text by a short rule and be presented in the same font size as the main text, or smaller.

Bibliography Page

A Chicago style formatted bibliography page lists all the sources cited in your text. Each bibliography entry begins with the author’s name and the title of the source, followed by the relevant publication details. The bibliography is alphabetized by authors’ last names.

Bibliographies should follow this format: Author Last Name, First Name. Book Title: Subtitle. Edition. Place of publication: Publisher, Year. DOI/URL.

The bibliography page appears at the very end of your entire paper. The heading Bibliography should bold and centred at the top of the page. Do note that unlike the rest of a Chicago format paper, the bibliography is not double-spaced. However, add a single line space between entries. If a bibliography entry extends onto more than one line, subsequent lines should be indented (hanging indent), helping the reader to see where each new entry begins.

Author names in the bibliography are inverted: The last name comes first, then the first name(s), and sources are alphabetized by author last name.

Note the following for works with multiple authors or no authors:

  • A single author work should be placed before a multi-author work, if begins with the same author
  • References by the same author or multiple authors (in the same order) should be alphabetized by title
  • Works with no authors should be alphabetized by title, with the title in the author position
  • Use "Anonymous" as an author only is the work is signed anonymously

Now that you have a better understanding of the formatting requirements that are needed to format a Chicago styles paper, putting together well-organized research and content would be a little less distressing.

Together with this article, there are multiple online sources that you can reference for help with formatting and citation needs. Referencing these Chicago guides and asking your mentors and advisors for help would make your writing process smoother. With experience and conscientious referencing, writing in the Chicago style of formatting will get easier.