How to create a Chicago style bibliography

In the Chicago citation style, you’ll usually use a bibliography to list the sources cited in your text. Each bibliography entry begins with the author’s name and the title of the source. The list is alphabetized by authors’ last names.

If you cited your sources in footnotes or endnotes, a bibliography entry looks like this:

Chicago bibliography entry

Rhys, Jean. Wide Sargasso Sea. London: Penguin, 1997.

If you used the author-date style of in-text citation, you’ll use a reference list. The only difference in a reference list entry is the placement of the date:

Chicago reference list entry

Rhys, Jean. 1997. Wide Sargasso Sea. London: Penguin.

Do I need a bibliography?

If you give full source details in footnotes or endnotes, Chicago guidelines don’t require you to use a bibliography, but it is recommended in most cases. A bibliography gives your reader an easy way to see all your sources in one place, giving them suggestions for further reading.

If you’re writing a very short essay drawing on few sources, a bibliography might not be necessary (though it’s still an option). If you don’t include a bibliography, your first reference to each source should be a full note that gives publication details of the source.

Note that if you’re using author-date style (where you cite sources in parentheses in the text), the bibliography is called a reference list. The reference list is not optional – in author-date style, it must be included.

Learn about Chicago reference lists

Format of bibliography entries

Bibliography entries follow a basic format which varies according to the type of source cited.

They always present the author’s name (inverted so that the last name comes first), followed by the title of the source. Separate elements of the entry are separated by periods, and the entry ends with a period:

Williams, John. Stoner. London: Vintage, 2003.

Books

In addition to the author and title, Chicago book citations also include the place and date of publication and the name of the publisher. They follow this format:

Author last name, first name. Book Title. Edition. Place of publication: Publisher, Year. URL.

The book title appears in italics and in title case. If the book states an edition, this should be included in abbreviated form (e.g. “2nd ed.”). If the book was translated, include the translator’s name after the title. The URL is only necessary if the book was consulted online rather than in print.

García Márquez, Gabriel. Love in the Time of Cholera. Translated by Edith Grossman. London: Cape, 1988.

Book chapters

If you refer to a specific chapter in a book containing texts by multiple authors – an essay collection, for example – you should include an entry for the relevant chapter, not the whole book.

In this case, the entry begins with the author of the chapter. You’ll also include the page range of the chapter and the name of the book’s editor (preceded by the abbreviation “ed.”). The format is as follows:

Author last name, first name. “Chapter title.” in Book Title, page range. ed. Editor first name last name. Place of publication: Publisher, Year.

The chapter title appears in quotation marks, while the book title is in italics. The editor’s name is not inverted.

Stewart, Bob. “Wag of the Tail: Reflecting on Pet Ownership.” in Enriching Our Lives with Animals, 220–90. ed. John Jaimeson. Toronto: Petlove Press, 2007.

Journal articles

Entries for journal articles include volume and issue numbers in addition to publication dates. They also include a link to the article. The format looks like this:

Author last name, first name. “Article title.” Journal Name Volume, Issue number (Publication date): Page range. DOI or URL.

The title of the article appears in quotation marks, the name of the journal in italics. A page range indicates where the article is located in the journal.

Volume and issue numbers identify which edition of the journal the article appears in. The publication date for journals is more specific than that used with books; it refers to a specific month, not just the year.

A DOI is a digital object identifier. It is more reliable than a URL for linking to online journal content.

Andreff, W., and P. D. Staudohar. “The Evolving European Model of Professional Sports Finance.” Journal of Sports Economics 1, no. 3 (August 2000): 257–276. https://doi.org/10.1177/152700250000100304.

Websites

To cite a website in Chicago, the bibliography entry includes the name of the website, the URL of the page cited, and the publication date. The format is as follows:

Author last name, first name. “Page title.” Website name. Publication date. URL.

The title of the page appears in quotation marks; the website name is not italicized.

If the publication date or the date of the most recent update is indicated on the site, include this. If you can’t find a date or if the page is frequently updated (e.g. a Wikipedia entry), include the date when you accessed the page instead.

McCombes, Shona. “Creating an MLA Heading.” Scribbr. Updated September 12, 2019. https://www.scribbr.com/mla/heading/.
Wikipedia. “Data analysis.” Accessed on August 15, 2019. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Data_analysis.

Note that there are specific guidelines for citing online video content – learn how to cite a YouTube video in Chicago style.

Missing information in a Chicago bibliography

If any of your sources do not provide key information like authors’ names or publication dates, you’ll have to find ways around this in the bibliography.

If a source has no stated author, as can often be the case with online sources, you can use the name of the organization that published it. Don’t write the website name again later in the citation if you’ve used it in place of the author’s name:

Scribbr. “Language Rules to Improve Your Academic Writing.” Accessed on July 12, 2019. https://www.scribbr.com/category/language-rules/.

If a web source has no publication date, you add the date you accessed it instead. But if you have a print source that lacks a publication date, write “n.d.” (no date) in place of the date:

Jack Smith. Data Analysis. New York: Norton, n.d.

Organizing and formatting the bibliography

The bibliography appears at the very end of your text, under the heading “Bibliography” (centred).

Ordering the bibliography

Bibliography entries are arranged in alphabetical order by the authors’ last names. The author’s name is inverted so that the last name comes first, followed by the first and middle names.

The bibliography should usually consist of one continuous list of all sources used – it should only be split into sections when there’s a good reason to do so. For example, an in-depth study of an author might separate texts by that author from texts by others. In most cases, this is unnecessary.

Sources with multiple authors

For sources with more than one author, only the first author’s name is inverted. Separate all author names with commas.

For texts with up to 10 authors, all the authors’ names should be listed in the order they appear in the source:

Gmuca, Natalia V., Linnea E. Pearson, Jennifer M. Burns, and Heather E.M. Liwanag. “The Fat and the Furriest: Morphological Changes in Harp Seal Fur with Ontogeny.” Physiological and Biochemical Zoology 88, no. 2 (March/April 2015): 158–66.

If there are more than 10 authors, list the first seven, followed by “et al.”

Spacing and indenting bibliography entries

Unlike the rest of a Chicago format paper, the bibliography is not double-spaced. However, add a single line space between each entry.

If a bibliography entry extends onto a second line, this second line (and any subsequent lines) should be indented, as seen in the examples. This is so that the reader can see at a glance where each new entry begins.

There are further guidelines for formatting a Chicago style annotated bibliography. This is a specific type of bibliography where you write a paragraph of summary and evaluation under each source.

Example of a Chicago style bibliography

Here’s an example of what a bibliography including all the example citations above would look like.

Chicago bibliography

Chicago style reference list

In author-date style, where you cite sources in parentheses in the text, the bibliography is called a reference list.

The reference list in author-date style is mandatory. This is because your in-text citations wouldn’t make sense without it. Every in-text citation must have a corresponding entry in the reference list.

The only difference between a bibliography and a reference list is the placement of the date; in a reference list, the date comes immediately after the author’s name. This is so that the reader can easily refer to a source cited in the text on the basis of the author’s name and the date of publication.

Note that web texts for which an access date is used instead of a publication date, “n.d.” replaces the year; the access date still appears later.

Here’s how the bibliography example above would look as a reference list:

Chicago reference list

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Jack Caulfield

Jack is a Brit based in Amsterdam, with an MA in comparative literature. He writes and edits for Scribbr, and reads a lot of books in his spare time.

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