Citing sources with Chicago style footnotes

The notes and bibliography style is one of two options for citing in the Chicago Manual of Style. In this style, citations are placed in footnotes or endnotes corresponding to reference numbers in the text.

A typical footnote citation looks like this:

1. Woolf, “Modern Fiction,” 11.

Full notes and short notes

There are two types of footnote in Chicago style: full notes and short notes.

Full notes contain the full publication details of the source. They are only used in texts without a bibliography. If you do not include a bibliography, the first citation for each source should be a full note.

Full note example

1. Virginia Woolf, “Modern Fiction,” in Selected Essays, ed. David Bradshaw (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), 11.

Short notes contain only the author’s last name, the title (shortened if longer than four words), and the page number (if relevant). They are used for all subsequent citations of the same source.

If you include a bibliography, short notes are used for every citation.

Short note example

2. Woolf, “Modern Fiction”, 11.

Chicago recommends including a bibliography in most cases, which means you’ll usually only need short notes.

However, a bibliography is not mandatory in Chicago style. For example, a short essays with few sources may not include one. If you aren’t including a bibliography, remember to use a full note for the first reference to each source.

Placement of footnotes

Footnotes should be used whenever a source is quoted or paraphrased in the text. They appear at the bottom of the relevant page, corresponding to reference numbers in the text. You can easily insert footnotes in Microsoft Word.

The reference number appears in superscript at the end of the clause or sentence it refers to. It is placed after any punctuation except a dash:

Johnson argues that “the data is unconvincing.”1

Johnson argues that “the data is unconvincing”1—but Smith contends that…

Notes should be numbered consecutively, starting from 1, across the whole text. Your first citation is marked with a 1, your second with a 2, and so on. The numbering does not restart with a new page or section (although in a book-length text it should restart with each new chapter).

Content of Chicago footnotes

The footnote contains the number of the citation followed by a period and then the citation itself. The citation always includes the author’s name and the title of the text, and it always ends with a period. Full notes also include all the relevant publication information (which varies by source type).

If you quote a source or refer to a specific passage, include a page number or range. However, if the source doesn’t have page numbers, or if you’re referring to the text as a whole, you can omit the page number.

In short notes, titles of more than four words are shortened. Shorten them in a way that retains the keyword(s) so that the text is still easily recognizable for the reader:

1. Mary Shelley, Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus, ed. M.K. Joseph (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), 91.
2. Shelley, Frankenstein, 91.

Combining multiple citations

Do not place multiple footnotes at the same point in your text (e.g. 1, 2, 3). If you need to cite multiple sources in one sentence, you can combine the citations into one footnote, separated by semicolons:

1. Hulme, “Romanticism and Classicism”; Eliot, “The Waste Land”; Woolf, “Modern Fiction,” 11.

Sources with multiple authors

Footnotes for sources with two or three authors should include all the authors’ names. When there are four or more authors, add “et al.” (Latin for “and others”) after the first author’s name.

Full noteShort note
1 authorVirginia WoolfWoolf
2 authorsGilles Deleuze and Félix GuattariDeleuze and Guattari
3 authorsAnne Armstrong, Marianne Krasny, and Jonathon SchuldtArmstrong, Krasny, and Schuldt
4+ authorsAnna Tsing et al.Tsing et al.

Missing information

You sometimes won’t have all the information required for your citation. You might be missing page numbers, the author’s name, or the publication date.

If one of your sources (e.g. a website) has no page numbers, but you still think it’s important to cite a specific part of the text, other locators like headings, chapters or paragraphs can be used. Abbreviate words like “paragraph” to “par.” and “chapter” to “chap.”, and put headings in quotation marks:

1. Johnson, “Literature Review,” chap. 2.1.
2. Smith, “Thematic Analysis,” under “Methodology.”

If the source lacks a stated publication date, the abbreviation “n.d.” (no date) should replace the year in a full note:

1. Smith, Data Analysis (New York: Norton, n.d.), 293.

If a text doesn’t list its author’s name, the organization that published it can be treated as the author in your citation:

1. Scribbr, “Chicago Style Citation.”

If you use a website name as an author, you may end up repeating the same information twice in one citation. Omit the website name from its usual place if you’ve already listed it in place of the author.

Footnote examples for different source types

Short notes usually look similar regardless of source type – author, title, page number. However, the information included in full notes varies according to the source you’re citing. Below are examples for several common source types, showing how the footnote should look in Chicago format.

Chicago book citation

Italicize the book title. If the book states an edition (other than the first), include this and abbreviate it (e.g. 2nd ed., rev. ed.). Add the URL if you consulted the book online instead of in a physical copy.

This is the format of a full note,3 and this is the format of a short note.4

1. Author first name last name, Book Title, edition. (Place of publication: Publisher, year), page number(s), URL.
2. Author last name, Shortened Book Title, page number(s).

This is an example of a full note,3 and this is an example of a short note.4

3. Stephen Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, 3rd ed. (New York: Free Press, 1989), 75–89.
4. Covey, 7 Habits, 75–7.

Chicago book chapter citation

Sometimes you’ll cite from one chapter in a book containing texts by multiple authors – for example, a compilation of essays. In this case, you’ll want to cite the relevant chapter rather than the whole book.

The chapter title should be enclosed in quotation marks, while the book title should be italicized. The short note only contains the chapter title.

The author is the one who wrote the specific chapter you’re citing. The editor of the whole book is listed toward the end of the footnote (with the abbreviation “ed.”), and left out of the short note.

This is the format of a full note,3 and this is the format of a short note.4

1. Author first name last name, “Chapter Title,” in Book Title, ed. Editor first name last name (Place of publication: Publisher, year), page number(s).
2. Author last name, “Shortened Chapter Title,” page number(s).

This is an example of a full note,3 and this is an example of a short note.4

3. Bob Stewart, “Wag of the Tail: Reflecting on Pet Ownership,” in Enriching Our Lives with Animals, ed. John Jaimeson (Toronto: Petlove Press, 2007), 87.
4. Stewart, “Wag of the Tail,” 88.

Chicago journal article citation

The article title should be enclosed in quotation marks, while the journal name should be italicized. Volume and issue numbers identify which edition of the journal the source appears in.

A DOI is a digital object identifier. This is generally more reliable than the URL when linking to online journal content.

This is the format of a full note,3 and this is the format of a short note.4

1. Author first name last name, “Article Title,” Journal Name Volume, Issue number (Year): page number(s), DOI or URL.
2. Author last name, “Shortened Article Title,” page number(s).

This is an example of a full note,3 and this is an example of a short note.4

1. Hannes Datta, “The Challenge of Retaining Customers Acquired with Free Trials,” Journal of Marketing Research 52, no. 2 (2015): 220, www.jstor.org/stable/43832354.
2. Datta, “Challenge of Retaining Customers,” 220.

Chicago website citation

The page title should be enclosed in quotation marks. Italicization is not used for website names.

If the publication date is unknown, you can instead list the date when you accessed the page at the end of the citation (e.g. accessed on September 10, 2019).

This is the format of a full note,3 and this is the format of a short note.4

1. Author first name last name, “Page Title,” Website Title, publication date, URL.
2. Author last name, “Shortened Page Title.”

This is an example of a full note,3 and this is an example of a short note.4

1. Courtney Gahan, “How to Paraphrase Sources,” Scribbr, April 18, 2018, https://​www.scribbr.com/​citing-sources/​how-to-paraphrase/.
2. Gahan, “How to Paraphrase Sources.”

Footnotes vs endnotes

All of the above information also applies to endnotes. Endnotes are less commonly used than footnotes, but they’re a perfectly valid option.

Footnotes appear at the bottom of the page they refer to.

  • Footnotes allow the reader to immediately check your citations as they read…
  • …but if you have a lot of footnotes, they can be distracting and take up space on the page.

Endnotes appear in their own section at the end of the text, before the bibliography.

  • Endnotes take up less space in the body of your text and reduce distraction…
  • …but they are less accessible, as the reader has to flip to the end to check each note.

Endnote citations look exactly the same as those in footnotes. Unless you’ve been told which one to use, choose whichever you prefer. Just use one or the other consistently.

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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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