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Citations and Citation Management: Primary Sources

Guides to help you cite sources for research papers

Citing the Bible

In Chicago Style, you can put biblical citations in footnotes or in-text citations. Cite book, chapter, and verse, as applicable. Chapter 8 of the Society of Biblical Literature Handbook of Style, 2nd ed., gives standard abbreviations for canonical, deuterocanonical, pseudepigraphal, Nag Hammadi, Qumran, and Rabbinic texts, as well as the works of major authors like Philo, Josephus, and the early Christian fathers.

  • Consistent with American convention, canonical and many apocryphal citations should have colons between chapter and verse: Genesis 1:1; 1 Maccabees 2:15. You may see periods or commas instead of colons in non-American works. For most other texts, divide section and subsection numbers with periods: Josephus, J.W. 3.506; Gospel of Truth 32.31. Do not put a comma between the title of the work and the location. See SBL Manual of Style sections 8.3.5– for more specific concerns in Qumran, Rabbinic, and Gnostic literature.
  • Whether the title of a text is in italic or roman print is a matter of convention. Consult the SBL Manual or other resource. Canonical books and other "Bible-like" texts are usually not italicized, whereas nonbiblical texts written by identifiable authors (e.g., Josephus, Philo, Justin Martyr, etc.) usually are. If a title is in italics, its abbreviation should be, too.
  • To list multiple citations, use semicolons between books or chapters within the same book, and commas between verses of the same chapter: Mark 1:15; 5:12, 17; John 2:26. This example calls the reader's attention to Mark 1:15, Mark 5:12, Mark 5:17, and John 2:26, separately. To cite an inclusive range of verses, use a dash: Mark 5:12–17.
  • To cite parallel texts, use twin slashes: Mark 1:39 // Matt 4:23.
  • In most cases it is unnecessary to cite the specific publication edition of the Bible (e.g., Oxford Study Bible, Good News Bible). If you are not providing your own translations, list the version by its abbreviation (NRSV, KJV, etc.) the first time you give a direct quote of the Bible: Psalm 14:2 NRSV. Unless it is relevant to do otherwise, use only one version in your paper or manuscript.
  • Some Jewish Bible texts, such as the Psalms, may have different numbering between the Masoretic text and the Septuagint. Convention assumes use of the MT. If you are using the LXX, specify: Ps 114:2 (LXX). 

Citing Greek and Roman Texts

The rules for ancient Greek and Roman texts generally apply to most ancient and medieval texts that are not treated like biblical texts. For medieval, ancient Mesopotamian, Arabic, Egyptian, classical Chinese, etc., texts, be aware of the conventions of your field. Chapter 8 of the SBL Manual of Style, 2nd ed., gives standard abbreviations for many Greek and Roman texts, alphabetical by author. The Perseus Project also gives abbreviations for most of the authors and texts it provides. These are occasionally different from those listed by SBL; in that case either is usually acceptable. There are special rules for Loeb editions.

  • Cite a text by its author, title, and location: Xenophon, Anabasis 1.14. In almost all cases you should abbreviate the title based on the lists provided above or other convention (that is, do not invent your own abbreviations): Xenophon, Ana. 1.14. You can often also abbreviate the author's name: Xen. Ana. 1.14. When the author's name is abbreviated it is common to exclude the comma between author and title.
  • Some well-known works will have titles in ancient languages and in English, with a different abbreviation for each title. For example, Josephus's Bellum judaicum (B.J.) might also be Jewish War (J.W.). It is usually up to the author to decide which to use, but be consistent.
  • Like biblical texts, ancient texts can be cited in parentheses in the text, or in footnotes. For in-text citations, it is common to exclude the author and/or title if the citation is part of an ongoing discussion of the same text.
  • For direct quotes of translated texts, cite the translation in a footnote as you would any other book or article. For all ancient texts, including biblical texts, convention assumes that if no translation is cited, the author has provided their own.
  • If you are providing your own translations or quoting the ancient language, you usually do not need to cite the edition of the ancient text unless you are specifically using something other than the most recent/accepted critical edition, or if you are translating a translation (e.g., specify if you are using the Septuagint rather than a Hebrew text of the Hebrew Bible, or the Latin Vulgate rather than original Greek or Hebrew of the Bible). Each subfield will have its own best practices in this arena, so pay attention to how other scholars in your field handle untranslated editions.

Citing Loeb editions

The Loeb Classical Library (LCL) is an incredibly useful resource for those doing research in Greek or Roman history, literature, and culture. Loeb volumes provide the most convenient access to translated and untranslated versions of the most important classical writings, as well as less known ones. CST users have access to the digital LCL here. Keep in mind that for many popular texts, such as the Homeric Epics or the well-known Greek tragedies, LCL may not provide the most recent translations.

  • If you are using a Loeb edition for the ancient text but quoting the ancient language, providing your own translation, or not directly quoting, you do not need to cite the edition. Simply cite the ancient text itself: Tacitus, Ann. 15.1.
  • If you are directly quoting the Loeb translation, include the last name of the translator and "LCL" in parentheses after the citation: Tacitus, Ann. 15.1 (Jackson, LCL). Provide the full citation to the edition in the bibliography.

Other Primary Sources

In your research you may encounter many types of primary sources. It is impossible to anticipate all needs here, but there are some basic guidelines and tips for the kinds of materials CST users might most often encounter. Conventions will vary between fields, and fields that frequently work with primary materials will often have style guides or resource lists available. A Google search can often find guides written by and for researchers in your field. 

  • CMS section 14.238–241: citing religious texts, including the Bible, the Qur'an, and the Vedas.
  • CMS section 14.23536: citing artworks or exhibition catalogs. Cite archaeological artifacts in the same way as artistic works.
  • CMS section 14.205210: citing websites and social media content.
  • CMS section 14.211220: citing interviews, pamphlets, contracts, lectures, etc.
  • Medieval sources are usually cited by the same conventions as classical Greek and Roman sources.
  • Citations of archival materials should include the physical location of the collection. See CMS section 14:221231.
  • You will most easily find the works of some historical figures (e.g., Martin Luther and John Wesley) in collected editions. How you cite them will depend on the specific publication details of the edition and whether your are using multiple texts or a single one. Duke University's PDF guide for citing John Wesley's works is helpful.
  • Cite ancient inscriptions by collection and number. The SBL Handbook of Style gives some guidelines for inscriptions in sections 6.4.3 and 8.3.16. As always, if you quote a translation, cite that translation.