Writing an essay can be an overwhelming process, but following a clear example helps the writer develop an organized, insightful piece. The first step is to indent and write the introduction, which includes three parts: the hook (general statement to capture the audience’s attention), the transition (one to several sentences that help connect the hook to the thesis and provide background information), and the thesis (a statement that specifies the content of the essay). An excellent paper in Chicago Manual of Style (CMS), the style commonly used for history, will represent correct formatting and will accurately use resources to make a specific point and draw conclusions.
Correct formatting begins with the basics: font size, font type, and margins. The entire paper should be written in 12 pt., Times New Roman font or a similar, easily-readable font. Margins are between 1-1.5 inches on the top, bottom, left, and right.1 Whereas APA and MLA papers are entirely double-spaced, CMS has several exceptions:
Block quotations, table titles, and figure captions should be single-spaced.
A prose quotation of five or more lines should be blocked.
A blocked quotation does not get enclosed in quotation marks.
An extra line space should immediately precede and follow a blocked quotation.
Blocked quotations should be indented .5” as a whole.
Notes and bibliographies should be singled-spaced internally; however, leave an extra line space between note and bibliographic entries.2
There is an additional use of single-spacing, as explained in the following paragraph about the title page. Clear and consistent formatting within a document is key, especially as CMS allows for variation within the guidelines.
The title page and headings are additional aspects of formatting that are often misunderstood. Essays in CMS will either include the title on the first page or a separate title page (the more common style). The title is centered and in all-caps about a third of the way down the page. If the title wraps to a second line, the two lines should be single-spaced. Also, if there is a subtitle, it should be placed on a separate line3—as demonstrated in this essay. The student’s name, class information, and the date are placed approximately another third of the way down the page; this information should be single-spaced. Sometimes the instructor will also ask for his or her name to be included; if so, this information is added before the date. With the exception of the title page, every page of the essay has a right-justified header with only the page number.4 This requires checking the box that says Different First Page when creating the header so that the title page is counted as page 1 but is not actually labeled. Most importantly, students must always follow their instructors’ directions and remember that these instructions trump any standard CMS protocol.
Most papers written in CMS formatting require extensive research. Unfortunately, many students inaccurately use resources, often leading to confusing information and, worse, unintentional plagiarism. Plagiarism is using someone else’s ideas or structural patterns without giving the author proper credit. In order to avoid plagiarism, writers must remember that any time they refer to information they did not know prior to conducting research, they must cite their sources.5
Citation can be direct or indirect. Direct citation, using the exact wording of a source, requires putting these borrowed words in quotation marks and providing footnotes or endnotes to document the author, the work, the page number, and other pertinent information to correspond with the Bibliography. (Note: This essay capitalizes Bibliography to denote correct punctuation on the document itself.) However, if direct citations are longer than four lines of prose, they are formatted according to the bulleted rules included previously in this essay.6 Indirect citations—a paraphrase or summary of someone else’s ideas—also require full citation; the only citation difference is that they do not include quotation marks. With footnotes or endnotes, “a super-script number is placed after any quotation, paragraph, or summary. These numbers are consecutive throughout the text, and correspond either to a footnote set at the bottom of the page or to endnotes that come at the end of the text.”7 The first line of each footnote or endnote is indented .5,’’ and subsequent lines of the same entry are single-spaced. Additional references to the same source can be listed with full notes or can use an abbreviated version with the author’s last name, a short version of the title, and the page number.8 Also, “[i]f a reference is to the same work as in the preceding note, you can use the abbreviation Ibid.”9 This abbreviation is followed by a comma and the page number if a page number is available (example: Ibid., 214). Pages 448-440 in Write Now! The DK Handbook provide a starting place for correct documentation for the footnotes or endnotes.10 Proper citation is vital to properly documenting sources and avoiding plagiarism. Anytime an author borrows someone else’s ideas, phrasing, or sentence structure, the author must provide correct citation.
Because the footnotes or endnotes include full bibliographic information for the sources cited, “writers do not need to provide a Works Cited or References listing—although they can.”11 However, many instructors require a Bibliography, which complements the notes. The Bibliography provides full information for each source used so readers can easily locate the original sources. It includes similar information to the notes, but the information is documented slightly differently. For each entry in the Bibliography, students must include four general categories of information: the author’s name, the title of the text, the publication of the text, and the publication year. Entries are alphabetized by the first word, always the source’s author unless there is no author. In this case, entries are listed by the title of the work. Entries are formatted using hanging indentation to help the reader easily locate each source. Individual entries are single-spaced with a space between entries.12 This essay’s Bibliography includes a web-based source and a print source, both excellent resources for writing any type of research paper in CMS format. Pages 446-448 in Write Now! The DK Handbook offer additional examples of bibliographical entries in CMS format.13
Writing a research paper can feel like a daunting task, but clear formatting and correct use of resources will help the writer clearly communicate his or her ideas. These papers are an opportunity to gather and synthesize existing information, while also drawing new conclusions and helping challenge people to think and act differently. Research writing is a valuable learning tool for both the student and the reader.
Clemens, Jessica, Elizabeth Angeli, Karen Schiller, S.C. Gooch, Laurie Pinkert, and Allen Brizee. "General Format.” The Purdue OWL. Last modified Oct. 17, 2012. http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/717/02/.
Wysocki, Anne Frances, and Dennis Lynch. Write Now! The DK Handbook with Exercises. 3rd ed. Boston: Pearson, 2013.
1Jessica Clemens and others, “General Format,” Purdue OWL, last modified Oct. 17, 2012, http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/717/02/.
5 Anne Frances Wysocki and Dennis A. Lynch, Write Now! The DK Handbook with Exercises (Boston: Pearson, 2013), 105.