You can choose from several writing and formatting styles when you write your dissertation or thesis, including MLA Style and Chicago Style, also called Turabian Style or Chicago Manual of Style. Actually, you might not have the opportunity to choose the formatting style for your paper: Your instructor might choose for you.

If your professor wants you to choose the style for your paper, you will want to follow a few guidelines. Most formal writing formats are similar, but you will notice many slight differences between styles. It's important to take some time to make sure you select the style that will best fit your paper's subject matter.

Here are some of the differences between MLA Style and Chicago (Turabian) Style.


1) MLA STYLE. Primarily, the Modern Language Association (MLA) designed MLA Style for subjects related to the humanities and liberal arts, such as literature, mass communications, and media studies. The MLA oversees the development of MLA Style, and you can visit the organization's website on the Internet for more information.

For undergraduate students, use the "MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers" (sometimes shortened to MLA Handbook) as the guide to following MLA Style. For graduate students and professionals, use the "MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing" (sometimes shortened to MLA Style Manual) to find official rules and guidelines for MLA Style. Keep in mind that the latest version of the MLA Style Manual, the third version, was recently released.

2) CHICAGO (TURABIAN) STYLE. For the most part, Chicago (Turabian) Style is designed to be a general style that works well for all types of college students in all types of subjects.

The University of Chicago Press has created the "Chicago Manual of Style," which provides guidelines for citing sources and formatting papers. The 15th edition is the latest edition. Kate Turabian, the dissertation secretary at the University of Chicago for 30-plus years, created "A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations," to give students and researchers additional guidelines. The sixth edition is the latest edition. The two styles are nearly identical, with only a few differences, and they're often combined to represent one style, as we've done here. Non-scholarly publications also will make use of Chicago (Turabian) Style in magazines and newspapers.

If MLA Style just doesn't seem as though it will work for the subject matter in your paper, you can make use of Chicago (Turabian) Style as a fallback. (Keep in mind that APA Style is available, too, and it's primarily aimed at subjects related to psychology and social sciences.)


If you still are unsure which style to use with your paper, one of the biggest differences between MLA Style and Chicago (Turabian) Style involves in-text citations. Chicago (Turabian) allows for footnotes and endnotes to cite sources, while MLA does not.

With both styles, enclose the last name of the primary author in parentheses in any in-text citation. That's where the similarities stop, though.

With MLA Style, you include the page number of the information you cited along with the name of the author, but you do not include the year of publication. Then include the full source citation in the Works Cited list at the end of the paper.

Some economists have indicated that technological advancements spur economic growth (Johnson 16).

With Chicago (Turabian) Style, you have two options. You can include an in-text citation inside parentheses that includes the name of author, along with the year of publication and the page numbers from which you took this particular quote or idea. With this option, you must include a full bibliography at the end of the paper.

Some economists have indicated that technological advancements spur economic growth (Johnson 2007, 16).

You also can use full footnotes or endnotes within the text, thereby skipping the bibliography at the end. Both styles require superscript numbers within the text. Chicago Style (first example) does not require superscript numbers with the note, but Turabian Style does (second example).

Some economists have indicated that technological advancements spur economic growth.1

1. Thomas Johnson ...

1 Thomas Johnson ...

Keep in mind that the in-text citations only serve to give readers a chance to find the complete information about the source in the Works Cited (MLA Style) or bibliography (Chicago and Turabian Styles) at the end of the paper.

You'll also find some differences in the formatting of each footnote, endnote, or bibliography entry in Chicago (Turabian) Style versus the Works Cited page in MLA Style. However, those subtle differences are too numerous to list here. Refer to the books listed above to find specific rules for citing sources in a bibliography or Works Cited list.

You can use an MLA writing software to correctly write and format papers in MLA Style, available at