How Do I Format Sections and Subheads in Turabian/Chicago Style?

Long chapters in theses, dissertations, and class papers may be divided into sections, which in turn may be divided into subsections, and so on.

Each section and subsection may have its own title, also called a subheading or subhead. You may have multiple levels of subheads: first-level, second-level, and so on. Unless your instructor has rules for subheads, you may decide your own format for them.

Tip: Unless you are writing a very long and complex paper, think carefully before using more than two or three levels of subheads.*

  • Each level of subhead should have its own style, different from the other levels.
  • Subheads may be centered or flush left.
  • Higher-level subheads should stand out more visually than lower-level ones. In general, subheads stand out more when centered, in bold or italic type, or capitalized headline-style than when flush left, in regular type, or capitalized sentence-style.
    {This Is an Example of Headline Style}
    {This is an example of sentence style}
  • Subheads don’t need a period at the end.
  • Put more space before a subhead than after.
  • Two consecutive subhead levels may appear together without any text between them.
  • You should have at least two subheads at any level within a chapter; otherwise your divisions may not be logically structured.
  • Never end a page with a subhead.

For more details, see the sample page below. For a detailed sample plan for five levels of subheads, see Turabian section A.2.2.4.

*If your paper has only a few sections, you may choose not to use subheads. Instead, mark the division between sections by centering three spaced asterisks (* * *) on their own line.

Sample Page with Sections and Subheads

IMPORTANT: Your instructor’s requirements may overrule Chicago’s formatting recommendations!

Turabian Manual Ninth EditionThe Turabian tip sheets illustrate everything you need to know for formatting a student paper in Chicago style. They are fully compatible with The Chicago Manual of Style (17th ed.). You can print them and download them.

  1. Margins and Page Numbers
  2. Title Page
  3. Table of Contents
  4. List of Tables and Figures
  5. Introduction or Conclusion
  6. Main Text
  7. Sections and Subheads
  8. Chapter Opening Page
  9. Figure and Figure Caption
  10. Bibliography
  11. Endnotes
  12. Footnotes
  13. Parenthetical Citations
  14. Reference List

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