Writing Using Chicago Notes and Bibliography (NB) Style

I’ve written a separate post explaining why you should cite your sources. This post will focus on how to cite assuming you’re using the Chicago Notes and Bibliography citation style.

Common knowledge doesn’t need a citation. What counts as common knowledge is always changing, so use your judgement: would a reader not as familiar with the topic as you consider the information obvious?

A paraphrase of someone else’s ideas, a statistic, or a claim of a fact that is not commonly known needs to be cited. When you first rely upon a given source, you place a numbered, superscripted marker in your writing at the end of the phrase or sentence being cited.1 Notice that the marker is placed after the punctuation. Then you provide a long-form citation entry either in a footnote at the bottom of that page or in an endnote at the end of the paper.

1 Doane, W. E. J. (2018). Writing Using Chicago Notes and Bibliography (NB) Style. Retrieved from http://DrDoane.com/writing-using-chicago-nb-style/

When you’re writing your drafts, avoid shortening citations or using the dreaded “ibid”. The Latin-based acronym ibid means “the same as [immediately] above”, meaning that you are citing the same source—possibly with a different page number—multiple times in a row. But these are drafts and you’re likely to move sentences, paragraphs, and entire sections around. You may delete your original first mention of a cited work entirely. Until you’re approaching your final version, it’s impossible to know what order your citations will be in or what citation is “immediately above”. Either avoid shortened versions of your citations completely, or leave them to be shortened when you’re nearly done writing.

Direct quotations must be cited and are “…a special case…” requiring a page number be added to the citation indicating exactly where the quotation comes from .2

2 Doane, W. E. J. (2018). Writing Using Chicago Notes and Bibliography (NB) Style. Retrieved from http://DrDoane.com/writing-using-chicago-nb-style/, 3-4

If a sentence or paragraph contains ideas from multiple pages within the same source, cite each page nearest to the information derived from that page. For example: Direct quotations are "...a special case..."3 requiring a page number be added to the in-text citation "...indicating exactly where the quotation comes from".4

3 Doane, W. E. J. (2018). Writing Using Chicago Notes and Bibliography (NB) Style. Retrieved from http://DrDoane.com/writing-using-chicago-nb-style/
4 Doane, W. E. J. (2018). Writing Using Chicago Notes and Bibliography (NB) Style. Retrieved from http://DrDoane.com/writing-using-chicago-nb-style/, 7-8

If a sentence or paragraph contains ideas from multiple sources, cite each source nearest to the information derived from that source. For example: Direct quotations are "...a special case..."5 requiring a page number be added to the in-text citation indicating exactly where the quotation comes from so that "...ownership of specific ideas can be properly attributed to their originators".6

5 Doane, W. E. J. (2018). Writing Using Chicago Notes and Bibliography (NB) Style. Retrieved from http://DrDoane.com/writing-using-chicago-nb-style/
6 Smith, A. (2018). Fictional works by fictional authors. (New York, NY: Very Random Publisher), 7-8.

Chicago NB style also allows for extended exposition in the footnote or endnote.7 Readers should be able to follow the main structure of your writing without tangential information getting in the way. Asides in notes offer you the space to write everything you feel you need to write, but without it getting in the way of your main idea.

7 All of those ideas you want to offset, put in parentheses, or provide as an aside from the main text, so that you don't break the reader's flow can be placed in a note to provide additional context for your writing.

If you find that you’re having difficulty identifying what needs to be cited or not cited, perhaps it’s because your writing contains broad generalizations. Consider refining your writing style as I show below.

You should begin most of your paragraphs with a specific claim of something you believe to be true based on your present knowledge of the topic. Subsequent sentences within the paragraph each provide evidence for the main claim of the paragraph, and those pieces of evidence should be cited.8 Marshaling your evidence in this way helps you to build your argument step by step, leading your reader to your conclusion. After all, the point of your writing is likely to convince your reader that you know what is likely to be true (your claim from the initial sentence) based on the evidence you've gathered.9

8 Doane, W. E. J. (2018). Writing Using Chicago Notes and Bibliography (NB) Style. Retrieved from http://DrDoane.com/writing-using-chicago-nb-style/.

9 University of Minnesota Libraries (n.d.). Writing for Success. Retrieved from http://open.lib.umn.edu/writingforsuccess/chapter/6-1-purpose-audience-tone-and-content/

For more information on Chicago NB style, visit the Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL).

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