Quotations and Block Quotes in Chicago Referencing
  • 3-minute read
  • 1st January 2017

Quotations and Block Quotes in Chicago Referencing

When writing an academic paper, you may need to quote something you’ve read somewhere. But how to do this depends on the referencing system being used, so it pays to do some research. In this blogpost, we’re looking at how quotations work in Chicago referencing.

Quoting vs. Paraphrasing

When citing a source, you can either:

  • Use a direct quotation
  • Paraphrase what you’ve read

Direct quotation involves using the exact words written in the source you’re citing. To do this, you should place the quoted text inside double quotation marks (i.e., “ ”). It’s a good idea to quote a source directly if your argument depends on the exact wording of what you’re quoting.

"Air quotes" are a bit different. (Source: Rob Cottingham/YouTube)
“Air quotes” are a bit different.
(Source: Rob Cottingham/YouTube)

If you don’t want to quote a source directly, you can paraphrase it instead. This means explaining what you’ve read in your own words. However, you still need to cite a source when paraphrasing, and you should be careful not to accidentally copy the original author’s wording.

Footnotes or In-Text Citations?

Chicago referencing offers two ways of citing sources, so the rules depend on the version you use. With the footnote and bibliography system, you indicate citations using superscript numbers after the quoted text:

Mitchell investigates “possible causal pathways connecting genetic replicators and social behaviors.”1

The first time you cite a source, you need to give full source information in the footnote (including page numbers for the section quoted).

With the author-date version of Chicago referencing, you cite sources in the main text of your paper. When quoting, this means giving the author’s surname, year of publication, and relevant page numbers in brackets:

It is important to investigate “possible causal pathways connecting genetic replicators and social behaviors” (Mitchell 1996, 132).

If you name the author in the text, however, you should give the citation immediately afterwards:

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Mitchell (1996, 132) investigates “possible causal pathways connecting genetic replicators and social behaviors.”

You then give full bibliographic information for all cited sources in the reference list.

Long Quotations

Longer quotations are formatted differently in Chicago referencing. These “block quotes” should be:

  • Prose quotations of five or more lines
  • Not enclosed in quotation marks
  • Preceded and followed by a blank line
  • Indented .5” from the left margin

The rules for citing a block quote are the same as when quoting a source elsewhere in your text. As such, a Chicago-style block quote using footnote citations would look something like this:

Discussing genetics and behavior, Mitchell writes that:

In order to evaluate the legitimacy of such explanations it is, thus, necessary to explicate the variety of possible causal pathways connecting genetic replicators and social behaviors. If phenotypic variation is the direct object of natural selection, one must understand the underlying relationship between the phenotypic expression and genetic replicators to argue that any such phenotypic trait is, or can be, an adaptation.1

This suggests the relationship between genetics and behavior in animals is…

The full citation for the source would then be given in a footnote at the bottom of the page.

Comments (4)
20th April 2020 at 01:43
What are the guidelines for author-date citing of an online article which does not have page numbers? Is the page number simply omitted?
    20th April 2020 at 11:58
    Chicago referencing says that, when a source does not include page numbers, you can cite a chapter or paragraph number (if available), a section heading, or a descriptive phrase that follows the organizational divisions of the work. However, for shorter electronic works presented as a single, searchable document (e.g., a web page or an online article), you can usually just omit the pinpoint citation entirely.
Chet Weld
6th September 2021 at 21:45
My editor is indenting the first line of all block quotations. I've never seen this before. I can't find it in the CMS where this is ever the case. Some blocks are followed by footnotes, and some are not. My editor is conforming my book to Chicago Style. Can you direct me to the CMS rule that says to indent the first line of a block quotation (or to not do it)? Thanks for advising!
    7th September 2021 at 09:07
    Hi, Chet. On the indentation, I believe the section you need from CMoS is '2.19 Format for prose extracts', which reads: Prose extracts (also called block quotations) should be indented from the left margin ... The first line should not have an additional paragraph indent. If there is more than one paragraph within the extract, however, each new paragraph should begin with an additional first-line paragraph indent. So, unless the block quotes comprise multiple paragraphs, no first-line indent is needed. And even for block quotes that do include more than one paragraph, you only need a first-line indent for paragraphs after the first one. Hope that helps!

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