Quick Guide: Citations – CMOS – Page 5

Chicago Manual of Style: Paraphrasing

There are two distinct steps for correctly citing paraphrased information within your manuscript:

  1. Include an abbreviated reference within your text (author last name, publication year, page number). This reference can take the form of a footnote or appear directly next to the paraphrased text as an author-date parenthetical citation (see earlier pages of this guide) or source line.
  2. Include a full reference at the end of the chapter in a list of references or bibliography: Author Last Name, First Name. Book title. City: Publisher, Year.

In the following example, the author summarized an article and cited the original source directly within the text using an abbreviated reference.


A Cash-Flow Based Rating System

Fitch Investors Service, Inc., a New York based credit-rating agency, recently unveiled a new cash-flow based rating system. The rating system compares net free cash flow, defined as earnings available to pay debt after interest costs, taxes, and capital expenditures have been considered, to the average amount of debt maturing over the next five years. This rating system is thought to provide a useful early warning system for corporate bond investors. A high rating indicates the company should have continuing liquidity, while a low rating generally indicates that the company may have to raise additional financing.

Source: “Investors Have a New Tool for Judging Issuers’ Health: Cash-Flow Adequacy,” The Wall Street Journal, January 10, 1994.

Here, the author paraphrased another author’s thoughts and cited the original source in footnotes. If you are paraphrasing a given fact (something automatically known as true in your particular discipline), no citation is required. However, ideas, theories, opinions, speculations—anything with a creative spark—should be properly cited.


The tribute they exacted from conquered peoples included precious metals, agricultural products, and fine craft products. According to one scholar, as much as 7,000 tons of maize and 2 million cotton garments, as well as gold and silver vessels and ornaments, were often demanded.25

But there were other reasons for resentment against the Aztecs. Bernal Dias, in The Conquest of New Spain, which provides a detailed account of Cortez’s triumph, recounts the complaints of subject peoples who sided with the Spanish (whose support was the primary reason Cortes prevailed). In particular, they complained to him that their wives and daughters were subjected to sexual abuse by the Aztecs and that their men were made to work like slaves.26


25 Frances F. Berdan, The Aztecs of Central Mexico: An Imperial Society (New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1982), 36.

26 Diaz, Conquest of New Spain, 210.

NOTE: There are two ways to do footnotes—fully on the first citation, and shortened on the second. In the example above, we pretend that Berdan was the first instance of the citation but that we cited Diaz before (thus the footnote is abbreviated).

However you choose to reference sources in-text when paraphrasing content, be sure to always include a full reference at the end of the chapter in a reference list or bibliography.

If you are unsure whether your paraphrasing of another author’s writing meets Cognella’s publication criteria, please ask your project editor for our toolkit on paraphrasing successfully.