How to Write a Thesis or Dissertation in Chicago Manual of Style - By: Brian Scott

Although college students can use several formatting styles to create a thesis or dissertation, there's one style that works in almost every circumstance: Chicago Style (also sometimes called Chicago Turabian Style). For a general-assignment paper, Chicago Style works extremely well. Although Chicago Manual of Style will work for a thesis or dissertation as well, your instructor might want you to use another, more formal style that's designed specifically for a thesis in a certain area of study. MLA Style, for example, works well with areas of study in liberal arts, and APA Style works well with psychological areas of study. Think of Chicago (Turabian) Style as a flexible option for creating a thesis or dissertation that doesn't quite fit some of the other style options.

Chicago Style requires following several rules for formatting the paper and for listing the sources you used to create the paper. As you look the rules and the large books, you might be intimidated. After all, if the book describing how to follow Chicago (Turabian) Style is 900 or more pages, how difficult is it for you to learn enough rules to formulate a decent paper? It's not as difficult as it seems. Following Chicago Style requires learning a few basic, common sense rules, and then applying slight variations of those rules throughout your paper.


The University of Chicago Press oversees the guidelines and rules for Chicago Manual of Style. The main publication is "The Chicago Manual of Style," which sometimes is abbreviated to CMS or CMOS. The University of Chicago Press created the first Chicago Style Manual in 1906, and the 15th edition appeared in 2003.

The Manual provides advice and guidelines for all aspects of writing; it is not limited to creating formal papers. You'll find tips and rules on grammar, correct usage of abbreviations, and proper punctuation. Beyond the printed edition of the Chicago Style Manual, you can visit chicagomanualofstyle(dot)org on the Internet for more information, including a "Quick Guide" to Chicago (Turabian) Style. The Manual is available at the Web site for $55 in a print version and $60 in an electronic version. You also can access the entire Manual through the Web site with an annual $30 subscription fee.

As part of the Chicago Style is "A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations," written by Kate L. Turabian. Turabian served as the dissertation secretary at the University of Chicago for almost 30 years, and she created the Turabian Manual as a complement to the Chicago Style Manual. The Turabian Manual was designed to give students a list of rules and guidelines to follow for various writing projects. The first Turabian Manual was a pamphlet Turabian created in the 1930s describing the correct style for formatting a dissertation. The Manual is now in its sixth edition, which was printed in 1996. Turabian died in 1987.

Turabian Style and Chicago Style are almost identical, which is why they're often referred to in combination. Turabian Style allows for use of footnotes for citing sources, which separates it from many styles of writing formal papers. Papers that use Chicago Style typically are less formal papers not designed for publication. However, the Style is flexible enough to work with almost any type of paper, including a thesis or dissertation.


With any formal paper, including a Chicago Style paper, research is the key to create a strong paper. While performing research, track your sources. With every quotation or idea that you use from a source, you must tell your readers about the source. The type of information you'll need from a source varies, depending on the publication, but most citations of sources require at least the author's name, article title, publication name, publication date, and pages that generated the idea or quotation.

When it's time to write your paper, using a computer with word processing software (such as Microsoft Word or WordPerfect) works well for following the formatting requirements.

For more in-depth items that I did not cover here, you may want to access one of the many books or Internet sites devoted to Chicago (Turabian) Style.

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Author Resource : Brian Scott is a professional freelance writer with over a decade of experience. He recommends using a Chicago Manual of Style formatting software to correctly format and write papers in Chicago Style, available at