How Do I Format Footnotes in Turabian/Chicago Style?

If you cite your sources in your thesis or dissertation (or class paper) using numbered notes, you will usually have the option of using footnotes. Unlike endnotes, which appear at the end of the paper (or sometimes at the end of each chapter), footnotes appear at the foot—the bottom—of the page.

Unless your department specifies, choose footnotes rather than endnotes. In most cases footnotes are easier to read than endnotes. This is especially true for discursive notes that include commentary on the text. (If your notes are very long or complex, however, endnotes may be the better choice.)

Here’s how to format footnotes for a Chicago-style paper following the guidelines in Kate L. Turabian’s A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations.

  • Each footnote should appear at the bottom of the page that includes its numbered in-text reference.
  • For note numbers in the text, use superscript.
  • Indent the first line of each note half an inch like a paragraph in the main text.
  • Use a short line (or rule) to separate footnotes from the main text.
  • Single-space each note, and add a blank line between notes.
  • Leave the right margin “ragged.”
  • Use regular text or smaller for the notes.
  • For note numbers in the notes, use normal text with a period and space after, or use superscript with a space but no period after.

Note that if you are using author-date style, your paper may still include discursive footnotes (see section 18.3.3 in the Turabian Manual).

To see what a page with footnotes looks like, consult the sample below. For more details, see chapters 16 and 17 in the Turabian Manual. See also section A.2.2.5 in the Turabian appendix on paper format and submission.

Sample Page with Footnotes

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

~ ~ ~

Image of book cover of The Chicago Manual of Style#ChicagoStyle for Professionals
Many libraries provide free access to The Chicago Manual of Style Online. If you aren’t sure whether your school subscribes, ask your librarian. In the meantime, click here for a free trial. Order the hardcover here.

Image of book cover of Turabian's Manual for Writers#ChicagoStyle for Students
Kate Turabian’s A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, written specifically for students, covers every aspect of research paper writing, from thinking up a topic to submitting the paper in official Chicago format. Turabian’s guidelines are compatible with The Chicago Manual of Style.

More Advice for Students

Please see our commenting policy.