A Guide to Anonymous Works in Chicago Footnote Referencing
  • 3-minute read
  • 28th May 2021

A Guide to Anonymous Works in Chicago Footnote Referencing

Sometimes, you might want to cite a source without a named author in your work. But how can you do this? Here, we’ll explain how to cite anonymous works using Chicago footnote referencing, including works attributed to “Anonymous.”

Works Without a Named Author

Some sources don’t name an individual (or individuals) as an author. In most cases like these, you can cite an organizational author instead. This will either be a group credited with writing the source or the publishing organization.

Sometimes, though, you won’t be able to find an organizational author to cite either. When this happens in Chicago footnote referencing, you can start citations with the work’s title in place of an author’s name. For example, the first footnote citation for a web page with no known author might look like this:

1. “The Secret to My Anonymity,” Medium, last modified March 12, 2020, https://medium.com/anonymous-articles/secret-to-anonymity.

You can then use the same principle in the bibliography entry, moving the title to the start of your reference. For instance:

“The Secret to My Anonymity.” Medium. Last modified March 12, 2020. https://medium.com/anonymous-articles/secret-to-anonymity.

When listing a source alphabetically by its title in a Chicago bibliography, ignore any initial articles. For instance, to reference “The Secret to My Anonymity,” we would ignore the initial “The” (i.e., the definite article) and list it under “S” for “Secret.”

Works Attributed to “Anonymous”

A slightly different issue is when a work is published under the name “Anonymous.”

To cite these kinds of anonymous works in Chicago footnote referencing, if the author is truly unknown, you can simply treat “Anonymous” as the author’s name in footnotes and the bibliography. For example:

Footnote for an Anonymous Book
2. Anonymous, My Secret Identity (London: Secret Books, 2006).

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Bibliography Entry for an Anonymous Book
Anonymous. My Secret Identity. London: Secret Books, 2006.

“Anonymous” is effectively the author’s name here. As such, you should list works attributed to an anonymous author alphabetically under “A” in your bibliography.

Anonymous Works with a Suspected Author

Finally, sometimes a source is published anonymously, but the name of the author is later revealed (or someone is named as the suspected author).

With anonymous works like these, place the suspected author’s name in square brackets. If their authorship is uncertain, add a question mark. For example:

Footnote for an Anonymous Book
3. [Miles Taylor], A Warning (New York: Twelve, 2019).

Bibliography Entry for an Anonymous Book
[Taylor, Miles]. A Warning. New York: Twelve, 2019.

As with all sources that have a named author (even a less than certainly named one), you should list entries like this by the author’s surname in your bibliography.

Chicago Referencing Proofreading

Hopefully, you should now be able to cite sources without an author using Chicago footnote referencing. If you’d like more help with your work, though, our editors are referencing experts. Upload a 500-word trial document today to find out more.

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