Chicago/Turabian Basics: Footnotes
Published June 28, 2012. Updated November 30, 2021.
This is your how-to guide for footnotes following the Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition. It will help you understand footnotes vs endnotes, teach you how to create them, and show real examples you can learn from.
What is a footnote?
A footnote is a note that provides additional information or references for the reader.
A footnote is indicated with a superscript numeral (like this1) within the text that corresponds to the same numeral at the bottom of the page, which is followed by the reference or additional information. The footnote should be included directly following the text it pertains to, usually after any punctuation.
In Chicago style (notes-bibliography style), footnotes are used instead of in-text citations to cite sources and to reduce interruption to the flow of the writing. However, footnotes can also be used to provide an additional explanation that would be difficult or distracting to include in the body of the text, to point the reader to additional reading or background information, to clarify a term or editorial decision, or to provide any other information that cannot be included within the text itself.
People working in the humanities—literature, history, and the arts—are the primary users of the Chicago footnotes and bibliography system.
Footnotes vs Endnotes
The main difference between footnotes and endnotes is that footnotes are included at the bottom of each page, whereas endnotes are included at the end of a chapter, article, or book.
Whether to use footnotes or endnotes depends on personal preference as well as the number of footnotes/endnotes needed. For example, in a text that has a significant number of notes, it may be better to format them as endnotes since the footnotes would take up a lot of room at the bottom of each page, making the text harder to read.
Here’s a quick overview of the two note styles:
Why We Use Footnotes
Chicago footnotes provide a note each time a source is referenced and are often combined with a bibliography at the end. The footnote usually includes the author’s name, publication title, publication information, date of publication, and page number(s) if it is the first time the source is being used. For any additional usage, simply use the author’s last name, publication title, and date of publication.
Footnotes should match with a superscript number at the end of the sentence referencing the source. You should begin with 1 and continue numerically throughout the paper. Do not start the order over on each page.
In the text:
Throughout the first half of the novel, Strether has grown increasingly open and at ease in Europe; this quotation demonstrates openness and ease.1
In the footnote:
1. Henry James, The Ambassadors (Rockville: Serenity, 2009), 34-40.
When citing a source more than once, use a shortened version of the footnote.
2. James, The Ambassadors, 14.
Chicago footnotes provide a note each time a source is referenced and are often combined with a bibliography at the end.
- If you use a bibliography: You do not need to provide the full citation in the footnotes, but rather a shortened form of the citation. The reader can consult your bibliography to find the full reference.
- If you only include footnotes and not a bibliography: You must include the full citation the first time you reference the work. The next time you use the same work, you can just use the shortened citation form.
- Include the pages on which the cited information is found so that readers easily find the source.
- Match with a superscript number (example: 1) at the end of the sentence referencing the source.
- Begin with 1 and continue numerically throughout the paper. Do not start the order over on each page.
Sometimes you may not be able to find all of the information generally included in a citation. This is common for online material and older sources. If this happens, just use the information you have to form the citation.
- No author: Use the title in the author’s position.
- No date of publication: “n.d.” (no date) can be used as a placeholder.
- You may use “n.p.” to indicate no publisher, no place of publication, or no page.
Looking for extra help creating footnotes? Check out the Chicago footnotes generator that comes with a subscription to EasyBib Plus.
Citing sources with more than 1 author
If there are two or three authors, include their full names in the order they appear on the source.
In the shortened form, list the last names of all authors of a work with two or three authors.
- 1st Author First name Last name and 2nd Author First name Last name, Title (Place of publication: Publisher, Year), page number(s).
- 1st Author Last name and 2nd Author Last name, Shortened title, page number(s).
- Alexander Aciman and Emmett Rensin, Twitterature: The World’s Greatest Books in Twenty Tweets or Less (New York: Penguin Books, 2009), 47-48.
- Aciman and Rensin, Twitterature, 25.
Citing sources with 4 or more authors
If there are more than three authors, list only the first author followed by “et al.” List all the authors in the bibliography.
In the shortened form, if there are more than three authors, only give the last name of the first author followed by “et al.”
- 1st Author First name Last name et al., Title (Place of publication: Publisher, Year), page number(s).
- 1st Author Last name et al., Shortened title, page number(s).
- Karen White et al., The Forgotten Room (New York: Berkley, 2016), 33-38.
- White, Forgotten, 52.
Get help with footnotes by using the EasyBib Plus Chicago footnotes generator.
Citing sources with other contributor information
You may want to include other contributor information in your footnotes such as editor, translator, or compiler. If there is more than one of any given contributor, include their full names in the order they appear on the source.
- Harry Mulisch, The Assault, trans. Claire Nicolas White (New York: Pantheon Books, 1985), 14.
- Mulisch, Assault, 29.If the contributor is taking place of the author, use their full name instead of the author’s and provide their contribution.
If the contributor is taking the place of the author, use their full name instead of the author’s and provide their contribution.
- Theo Hermans, ed., A Literary History of the Low Countries (Rochester: Camden House, 2009), 372.
- Hermans, Low Countries, 301.
If you have a corporate author, use that name in place of the author.
Citing sources with no author
It may not be possible to find the author/contributor information; some sources may not even have an author or contributor- for instance, when you cite some websites. Simply omit the unknown information and continue with the footnote as usual.
Example Book (New York: Scholastic, 2010), 65.
Citing a part of a work
When citing a specific part of a work in the Chicago footnotes format, provide the relevant page(s) or section identifier. This can include specific pages, sections, or volumes. If page numbers cannot be referenced, simply exclude them.
Article in a book:
- Kristen Poole, “Dr. Faustus and Reformation Theology,” in Early Modern English Drama: A Critical Companion, ed. G.A. Sullivan et al. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), 100.
- Poole, “Dr. Faustus,” 102.
Chapter in a book:
- Garrett P. Serviss, “A Trip of Terror,” in A Columbus of Space (New York: Appleton, 1911), 17-32.
- Serviss, “Trip,” 20.
Introduction, afterword, foreword, or preface:
- Scott R. Sanders, introduction to Touchstone Anthology of Contemporary Creative Nonfiction: Work from 1970 to Present, ed. Lex Williford and Michael Martone (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2007), x-xii.
- Sanders, “Introduction,” xi.
Article in a periodical:
- William G. Jacoby, “Public Attitudes Toward Public Spending,” American Journal of Political Science 38, no. 2 (May 1994): 336-61.
- Jacoby, “Public Attitudes,” 345.
Citing group or corporate authors
In your footnotes, cite a corporate author like you would a normal author.
American Medical Association, Journal of the American Medical Association: 12-43.
Citing secondary sources
It is generally discouraged in Chicago style to cite material that you cannot examine in its original form. If this is absolutely necessary, you must cite both the original work and the secondary one in Chicago footnotes.
- Letter, J.B. Rhine to Aldous Huxley, August 15, 1957, Parapsychology Laboratory Records (1983-1984), Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, quoted in Stacy Horn, Unbelievable: Investigations into Ghosts, Poltergeists, Telepathy, and Other Unseen Phenomena, from the Duke Parapsychology Laboratory, (New York: HarperCollins, 2009).
Citing the Bible
When you cite the Bible, include the abbreviated title of the book, the chapter(s), and the verse(s) referenced. You use a colon between chapter and verse. Also, include the version you are referencing. The version must be spelled out for a general audience, but it may be abbreviated for specialists.
- Prov. 3:5-10 (AV).
- Prov. 3:5-10 (Authorized King James Version).
Citing online sources
For online sources, Chicago footnotes generally follow the same principles as printed works.The URL, database name, or DOI need to be included so that the reader can easily find the work cited.
Eliot Brown, “In Silicon Valley, the Big Venture Funds Keep Getting Bigger,” Wall Street Journal, July 25, 2017, https://www.wsj.com/articles/in-silicon-valley-the-big-venture-funds-keep-getting-bigger-1501002000.
Cynthia J. Cyrus, The Scribes for Women’s Convents in Late Medieval Germany (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2009), ProQuest Ebook Central.
EasyBib (@EasyBib), “Writing a research paper?,” Twitter, January 21, 2020, 5:20 p.m., https://twitter.com/EasyBib/status/1219746511636049920.
Doritos, “The Cool Ranch Long Form feat. Lil Nas X and Sam Elliott,” YouTube video, 01:30, posted February 2, 2020, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q6qchztaw9g.
Electronic personal communication:
- Jane Smith, email message to author, January 1, 2020.
- John Smith, Facebook direct message to author, January 2, 2020.
The Chicago Manual of Style. 17ed. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2017.
Published June 28, 2012. Updated March 11, 2020.
Written by Janice Hansen. Janice has a doctorate in literature and a master’s degree in library science. She spends a lot of time with rare books and citations.
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