Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Chicago referencing: Dealing with a difficult citation

Referencing: creating footnotes and bibliographies in the Chicago style,


From time to time, you will have a unusual item to reference and will find that the Chicago Manual is not of much help. There is no need to panic!  Here are our suggestions for approaching these tricky citations:


  • Go back to the Manual, check for the nearest kind of material and adapt accordingly. Think about the basic principles of the system you're using, and how you can fit those principles to your material.

  • Bear in mind the purpose of referencing: to make your sources clear to the reader, and to enable that reader, whenever possible, to go back to the same sources.   Think about what will be helpful and clear to your reader and make a common sense decision, aiming for clarity and brevity.

  • Look at other books and dissertations which use the same referencing style.  Be careful: they may not be using exactly the same version of Chicago, but you should at least be able to pick up some useful ideas.

  • Search for advice online from other colleges and universities. A simple Google search such as Chicago style Whatsapp (if you're unsure how to reference a Whatsapp message) will turn up much advice, and it will be obvious which  comes from academic institutions. Again, be careful: the advice may not be perfect, and the institution may use a different version of Chicago.  

  • Ask the SIA librarians.  We may not be able to give you a definitive answer - often because there is no definitive answer.  But we can look at your citation and help you come up with a common sense solution. 

  • Ask your tutor or dissertation supervisor - possibly. Your time with your tutor or supervisor is precious, and it's rare that discussing referencing will be a good use of that time. However there could be occasions when it is appropriate. For instance, if a significant proportion of your dissertation bibliography is a particular, unusual kind of material - e.g. Instagram posts - then it may be sensible to check that your supervisor is happy with the way you're proposing to cite them.