When writing research papers or academic texts, you will most likely be required to use a specific style guide determined by your department or specialization and perhaps your school. There are three main style guides we use in academic writing: The American Psychological Association (APA) guide, which emphasizes dates; the Modern Language Association’s formatting, which emphasizes authors and page numbers; and the Chicago Manual of Style (often CMS), which is perhaps the most extensive regarding citations.
Chicago style is used often in American academic writing, and is especially well used when writing historical documents. This is because Chicago style is, out of the three guides mentioned above, the one who utilizes footnotes and endnotes most efficiently. When writing documents that require heavy research, CMS is used to more extensively note the origins of the research within the text itself.
Like all style guides these days, heavy changes have recently been made in Chicago style to accommodate the many forms of information we now receive. The most up-to-date information can be found either in their most recent 16th edition or within their online home: chicagomanualofstyle.org. Whether you need to format a paper for electronic publication or to choose between footnotes and endnotes, familiarizing yourself with the most recent changes to the Chicago style will benefit your academic writing.
Because the Internet provides such a vast output of information (and because not all of it is legitimate), scholars are more cautious about where quotations and ideas are coming from. Proper citation is a must, otherwise one can be accused of plagiarism, for which punishments are often hefty. Chicago style emphasizes giving credit where credit is due. Though all the style guides share some overlap (for instance, Chicago style allows for author-date parenthetical citation along with APA), if your professor or publisher calls for a certain style, you should follow it as closely as you can. Though the details of the style guides may seem fussy and annoying at first, they have been put in place and recommended by some of our most established institutions in an effort to streamline information, quotations, and citations, and thus it behooves us to get familiar with the Chicago style manual and its practices.