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Kate Larimore Turabian (1893–1987) was the graduate school dissertation secretary at the University of Chicago for nearly three decades, from 1930 to 1958. She was also the editor of official publications for the university.

Born and raised on Chicago’s South Side, Laura Kate Larimore graduated from Hyde Park High School. When a serious illness prevented her from attending college, she took a job as a typist at an advertising agency, where she worked alongside a young Sherwood Anderson.

Kate Larimore met her husband, Stephen Turabian, in 1919 and began working at the university as a departmental secretary a few years later. In 1930 she became the university’s dissertation secretary, a newly created position in which every accepted doctoral thesis had to cross her desk. It was there in 1937 that she wrote a small pamphlet describing the university’s required style for writing college dissertations. That pamphlet eventually became A Manual for Writers and has gone on to sell more than nine million copies in nine editions. Turabian also authored The Student’s Guide for Writing College Papers.

Turabian’s 1937 booklet reflected guidelines found in the tenth edition of The Chicago Manual of Style—an already classic resource for writers and editors published by the University of Chicago Press (now in its seventeenth edition). The Press began distributing Turabian’s booklet in 1947 and first published it in book form in 1955 under the title A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations. Over time, Turabian’s book has become a standard reference for students of all levels at universities and colleges across the country. Turabian died in 1987 at age ninety-four, a few months after publication of the book’s fifth edition.

Beginning with the fifth edition, members of the Press editorial staff have carried out the revisions to Turabian’s Manual on source citation, style, and paper format in line with the recommendations for “Chicago Style” set forth in The Chicago Manual of Style. While there are a few minor differences between the two books to accommodate the needs of student paper writers, they share the same Chicago-style citation formats.

Beginning with the seventh edition, A Manual for Writers has included a substantial additional section covering every step of the research and writing process, contributed by professors Wayne C. Booth (1921–2005), Gregory G. Colomb (1951–2011), and Joseph M. Williams (1933–2008), coauthors of The Craft of Research (now in its fourth edition). This part of Turabian’s Manual provides expert advice on formulating the right questions, reading critically, building arguments, and revising a draft.

For the new ninth edition, Joseph Bizup and William T. FitzGerald, associate professors of English at Boston University and Rutgers University, respectively, revised the book with a focus on building information literacy, recognizing that most students will be doing their work largely or entirely online and on screens. Chapters include updated advice on finding, evaluating, and citing a wide range of digital sources and also recognize the evolving use of software for citation management, graphics, and paper format and submission.

The University of Chicago has always insisted on the highest standards for the substantive content of dissertations; Kate Turabian enforced the highest standards for the formatting of those dissertations as well. A Manual for Writers has carried her reputation for exactitude well beyond the halls of Chicago.