Introduction to CMS


The Chicago Manual of Style (CMS) provides citation advice for students in the humanities and social sciences. CMS is known primarily for its Notes and Bibliography system, where writers use detailed footnotes or endnotes in combination with a final bibliography.

For writers in the sciences, CMS does provide an Author-Date citation style (similar to APA), but that will not be our focus of this introductory guide.

Our guide to CMS will teach you the rules found in the latest edition of the Chicago Manual of Style (17th ed.). However, do be aware that occasionally we follow the more student friendly advice provided in Kate L. Turabian’s A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations (9th ed.). This applies especially to the rules for formatting an essay.

Using Notes

What is unique about CMS is its use of footnotes (or endnotes). Whereas MLA and APA require writers to cite their sources right in the body of the text, CMS tends to keep the text free of clutter. Most bibliographic information is provided in the notes. This way it’s possible to provide a detailed citation every time a source is mentioned for the first time.

To create a note in MS Word, go to the References tab, and click on Insert Footnote (or Insert Endnote).

The first time you cite a source, you’ll need to give fairly detailed information (as in this citation of a book):

The Q-tip, or cotton swab, was advertised as the end of ear wax, but, as Hegel found out, history has no end, and doctors now warn people that Q-tips pose a significant danger.¹

1. Bernard Upperlip, A Brief Inquiry into the History of Ear Wax (London: Candlelit Press, 2011), 98.

If you also provide a full bibliography at the end of your paper, you are allowed to cite less information (though consult your teacher first!), but most often your first citation of a source should be as complete as possible.

Information in a footnote is separated using commas. By contrast, in your bibliography you’ll want to use mostly periods:

Upperlip, Bernard. A Brief Inquiry into the History of Ear Wax. London: Candlelit Press, 2011.

You’ll also notice that now the author’s name is inverted, the publication information for a book is no longer in parentheses, and the page number does not have to mentioned (though you do need to give a page range when citing a chapter in a book).

Finally, after you’ve cited a source in a footnote, subsequent citations can be much shorter. Often you can do with the author’s name, a shortened version of the title, and the page number:

2. Upperlip, History of Ear Wax, 99.

In such cases, CMS used to recommend writing Ibid. (the same), but the current style guide suggests you avoid this abbreviation.

The notes and bibliography system described here is what CMS is all about. With a bit practice you’ll get the feel for it soon enough.


With our APA and MLA citation guides we have kept in-text citation separate from final citation (in the Works Cited or References page). For CMS we will use a different approach. For each type of source (periodical, book, etc.) we will provide simultaneously examples of both footnotes and bibliographic entries. That way it’s very easy to see how you would cite a source in both the notes and the bibliography.

Finally, we haven’t covered every last type of citation. In particular, we’ve left out legal sources, for which we recommend you consult one of the following texts:

  • The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation 
  • ALWD Guide to Legal Citation
  • Canadian Guide to Uniform Legal Citation 

Additional Resources

While our CMS citation guide covers a lot of information, we do provide a few additional resources you might find handy:

Also, if you’re likely to write a lot of research papers, we recommend you check out the free Zotero citation software (no affiliation).

Footnotes and Endnotes


The Chicago Manual of Style (17th ed.) recommends using footnotes or endnotes to cite your sources. Our primary focus will be on the rules for footnotes, but we will provide some guidance for endnotes as well.


Inserting Footnotes

Footnotes are normally inserted at the end of a sentence or clause. In MS Word, go to References > Insert Footnote.

Andrew Appleby notes that “shaving one’s arm pit hair is a surprisingly recent custom.”¹

Ada Lovelace is often credited with envisioning the computer;¹ less attention has been paid to her tumultuous personal life.

The only time a footnote number comes before the punctuation is if you’re using a dash. Note as well that you should never insert multiple footnotes right after each other.

Formatting Footnotes

One annoying feature about CMS is that it can be tricky to format your footnotes properly in Microsoft Word. Here’s what you’ll need to do:

  • Use Times New Roman font, size 12.
  • Indent the first line of each footnote one tab space.
  • Single space your footnotes, but add a space between each one.
  • Add a period behind the numbers that start the footnotes.
  • Change the format of the numbering in the footnotes so that the numbers are not in superscript.

For help with these formatting rules, please watch the video above. Do note that in unpublished manuscripts you are allowed to use superscript in the notes (see section 14.24), so if you’re writing an essay for your teacher you don’t have to worry about the last style rule.

Basic Citations

When you cite a source in a footnote, the key elements (author, title, etc.) are separated by commas:

1. Jennifer Trip, “Conservative Politics and the Slippery Slope Argument,” Old Fashioned Quarterly 99, no. 1 (Winter 2017): 78.

By contrast, in your final bibliography you would use periods, invert the name, and either leave out the page or (for some citations) give the full page range:

Trip, Jennifer. “Conservative Politics and the Slippery Slope Argument.” Old Fashioned Quarterly 99, no. 1 (Winter 2017): 70-79.

The basic format of a citation thus includes an author, title, and publication information.

Shortened Citations

Sources that are cited multiple times can be shortened after the first citation. In such cases you can provide just the author’s last name, the title (shortened if longer than four words), and a page reference:

1. Amy Sung, The Siamese Art of Double Dating (Hong Kong: Inky Press, 1999), 87.

2. Sung, Double Dating, 107-11.

When shortening a title, remove the articles (aanthe) and use just a few key words. For the author, omit first names and remove references to contributor roles (e.g., ed. or trans.).

When citing the same source in quick succession, you can even leave out the title of the source:

9. Sung, Double Dating, 144.

10. Sung, 159.

11. Sung, 162.

Quotation in a Note

When adding a quotation in a footnote, add the citation as a separate sentence:

1. As Michelle Gobbledygook writes, “ancient Roman aqueducts may have been used for elaborate canoe races.” Gobbledygook, The Kayaking Ostrogoth Tribe that Vandalized the Roman Aqueducts (Vancouver: Arch Publications, 1984), 44.

You have some freedom in terms of whether you wish to repeat the author’s entire name.

See and cf.

A common way to introduce references is to write see:

1. Some tennis experts feel that the fifth set tie breaker should be simplified due to the number of power hitters who dominate the service game. See Kevin Isner, “Going the Distance: The Problem of the Fifth Set,” Wimbledon Advantage 55, no. 2 (2018): 22. 

You can also use the abbreviation cf. (from Latin confer, compare), but only if you actually intend the reader to compare two perspectives on an issue.


If you want to emphasize part of a quote, add italics, or make any other changes you desire, you can add a quick note at the end of your citation:

5. Castafiore, Milanese Nightingale, 377 (emphasis added).

Multiple Citations

When citing multiple sources in a row, you can often separate them with a semi-colon:

6. Important studies of the history of the kettle include Ernst Schwartz, The Black Kettle (Hamburg: Dietrich Verlag, 2016); Ulrich Smelch, From Cauldron to Kettle (Coventry: Witch’s Press, 2001); and Iris Plasterer, “The Plastic Kettle and the Problem of Limescale.” Kittles and Kettles 17, no. 3 (2007): 14-28.


You can cross reference notes, though you’ll have to double check that your numbering remains accurate:

12. See note 5 above.
4. See chap. 2, n. 9.
9. See 201n15.
13. See 5nn1-2.

In the last two examples, the abbreviations and nn stand for note and notes. The number that precedes them is the page reference.

Beyond Page Numbers

Sometimes it happens that a source does not use page numbers. In that case you may want to substitute a chapter title, a paragraph number, or some other description of where the claim or quote may be located.

By contrast, for many classic literary works you will have to familiarize yourself with how a work is customarily cited. Dante’s Divine Comedy, for instance is usually cited by canto and line number:

1, Dante, Inferno, canto 3, lines 7-8
2. Dante, Inferno, 3.28-29.

In such complex citations you can use the abbreviations p. and pp. (for page and pages), but do write out line and lines.


One reason to prefer endnotes over footnotes is that the latter can be a distraction from the body of your text. On the other hand, the downside to endnotes is that many readers don’t like flipping back and forth to compare the notes to the text.

Endnotes are primarily used for books and select scholarly publications. Most students can rely on using footnotes instead.

Citations in endnotes follow the same rules as for footnotes. However, the Chicago Manual of Style recommends that for the sake of clarity writers are more cautious about using shortened citations (see above).

To format your endnotes, add the title “Notes.” If you’re working with a longer document, you can add section headings as well (e.g., “Chapter 5” or “Chapter 5: The Wedding from Hell”). In such cases you can restart the numbering, beginning with 1.

Finally, when using endnotes in a book it is customary to add a running head to each page (e.g., “notes to pages 77-79”) to make it easy for readers to match up the notes with the original citation.

More Information

For more information about footnotes and endnotes, see sections 14.1-14.60 of the Chicago Manual of Style (17th ed.).

CMS Quick Guide


Welcome to our quick guide for citing sources following the guidelines set out in the Chicago Manual of Style (17th ed.). Scan the list for the type of citation you need and click on the link to find detailed instructions.

All Citations


Book (basic format)
Book with multiple authors
Book with editor, translator, compiler
Book with author and editor, translator, or compiler
Book with other contributors
Book chapter
Chapter in a collection or anthology
Introduction, preface, or afterword
Multi-volume work
Reference Work
Online book


Article (basic format)
Online article
Forthcoming article
Article without continuous pagination
Article with access date
Special issue

Online Sources

Entire website
Page of a website
Online article
Online book
Video on a website
Social media
Social media comment 


Newspaper articles
Online newspaper article
Letter or comment
Article with no author

Audio-visual Sources

TV series
Music recording
Other audio files

Archival Research

Manuscript Collection

Interviews and Messages

Unpublished interview
Published interview
Personal message