Top Five Mistakes Students Make with Turabian Formatting

Posted by Rachel Cochrane on 8/18/20 9:38 AM

One of the hardest things to learn when adjusting to college academics is understanding how to correctly format an essay. Our professors require Turabian formatting, so we talked to some of our Turabian experts, Dr. Robert Spinney and Dr. Kristina Tanner, to figure out what you ought to avoid when formatting your term papers.

1. Don't Omit Quotation Marks

When you include words from the original source, be sure to include quotation marks. Quotes don’t have to be full sentences in order to justify quotation marks. This is one of the most common mistakes students make, according to Tanner. Be sure to include proper attribution in the wording when drawing information from a source.

Instead of this:

The most common form of jazz in this time period is a particularly free and laid back style called cool jazz. [citation]

Do this:

The most common form of jazz in this time period is a “particularly free” and laid back style called “cool jazz.”  [citation]

(examples from Tanner)

2. Don't Format Your Footnotes Incorrectly

Both Spinney and Tanner often see students make mistakes in their footnotes. When formatting footnotes, be sure to:

  • Indent all the way on the bottom left of the page.
  • Keep them single-spaced.
  • When using Ibid. do not put it at the top of that page’s footnotes.
  • Font size should be below the main text’s size (10 point type vs. 12 point type in the paper, for example)

3. Don't Number the Title Page

Spinney sees students put “page 1” on their title page, when it should be left blank. Instead, the first page of essay content should read, “Page 1”.

You can find a helpful guide for how to do this here (for Microsoft Windows).

5. Don't Forget to Cite Smaller Works

In regards to citing, Tanner has some advice: “I suggest that students, when using a lot of info from a single source, cite it once per paragraph, even if the information from that source appears in three subsequent paragraphs without usage of another source in between. Try to footnote in every paragraph at least once at minimum.  It is always better to over-cite than under-cite (which can result in accidental plagiarism.)”

“Frequently," Tanner added, "a student errs by not including the article, entry, or essay within a larger work when citing it."

Do this:

“Beethoven.”  Scott Burnham, Elaine Sisman, et. al., pgs. 31-59.  Found in New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians.  Ed. Stanley Sadie...

Don't: just cite New Grove Dictionary.

4. Don’t Double-Space the Bibliography

This is an easy mistake to make. The entries should be single-spaced with a double space between each entry.


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