On this page the guide will look at citations for primary materials such as cases and legislation as well as for simple secondary sources.
The standard that is used at Oxford and many other institutions is Oxford Standard for the Citation of Legal Authorities (OSCOLA). This is currently in its 4th edition and is available online at https://www.law.ox.ac.uk/research-subject-groups/publications/oscola. For US legal material you often hear references to the Bluebook.
There are also other referencing systems, Harvard Referencing (or sometimes referred to as Parenthetical referencing) and Modern Language Association (MLA) are both popular citation styles.
Referencing work properly is essential. For more information on avoiding plagiarism see the tab on Legal Writing; for more information on reference management and software see the tab on Reference Management.
This focuses on using correct citations for cases in the UK. If you want to know more about how to find cases or how to interpret citations then there is more information on the UK libguide.
When citing cases there is a difference between cases before 2001/02 and after.
|Cases before 2001||Cases after 2001/02|
|Reported||Party names / law report citation||Party names/ neutral citation/ law report citation|
|Unreported||Party names / (unreported, date)||Party names/ Neutral citation|
Barrett v Enfield LBC  2 AC 550
|Dingmar v Dingmar  EWCA Civ 942; Ch.109|
|Richards v Westgate Ltd (unreported, 20th July 1995)||Brampton v Rust  EWHC 216 (QB)|
Using Square and Round Brackets
You need to make sure that you use the right brackets when citing law reports
Barret v Enfield LBC  2 AC 550
Here the year is in square brackets, this means that the year is the primary method of finding the book on the shelf. Within in the law report series(AC) you would have to look for the year and then look for volume 2 within that year. Use square brackets for any series that uses the year as a volume number.
DPP v Ottewell (1968) 52 Cr.App.R. 679
With this example the year is in round brackets. This means that the year is not necessary to find the correct volume and that you use the volume number to find the book within the series (there is only one volume 52 in the law report series). Use round brackets for series that use consecutive volume numbers for the whole series
A neutral citation is constructed as follows:
The first element is the calendar year, put in square brackets [ ].
The third element is the unique (case) number - without brackets.
Which Law report should you cite?
For a lot of cases you come across there will be a number of different law reports of that case. It is important to try and cite the most authoritative law report. For many countries there is an official series but in the UK there are a large number of different report series. To find the most authoritative series for the UK you can use an online case citator tool such as Westlaw Case Analysis, JustCite or Lexis Library's Case Search which will have the list of law reports in order of authority. The Law Reports series (published by ICLR) is seen as the most authoritative series and following a Practice Direction by Lord Woolf in 2001 ( 1 WLR 194) it is the report to cite. More information can be found in the UK Libguide on this series.
For more information about searching legislation and sources see the UK Libguide. There are more detailed instructions in OSCOLA at page 23 including how to cite parts of legislation (sections, paragraphs, schedules etc). OSCOLA also goes into how to cite Bills and Hansard Debates.
UK Public General Acts
Public General Acts are usually cited by its short title/year/chapter number, although OSCOLA states that the chapter number is not needed. The short title is the one that appears at the top of the act. With older legislation you usually find that the year is replaced by a regnal year.
Human Rights Act 1998 ch.42Crown Debts Act 1801 (41 Geo 3 c 90) - the regnal year is in brackets
Scottish Act of Parliament (1997-)
Acts of the Scottish Parliament are cited by short title and year and instead of chapter numbers they are given an 'asp' number (you should put this in brackets but you may see it without). You may also see the word 'Scotland' in brackets within the short title as well.
|Transport and Works (Scotland) Act 2007 (asp 8)|
UK Local Acts
UK local acts are cited in the same way but will have roman numerals as chapter numbers.
|South Yorkshire Light Rail Transit Act 1990 c. xviii|
When citing a statutory instrument, give the name, year and (after a comma) the SI number.
Statutory instruments used to be called statutory rules and orders, and these are cited by their title and SR & O number.
The Freedom of Information (Additional Public Authorities) Order 2005, SI 2005/3593
Hollow-ware and Galvanising Welfare Order 1921, SR & O 1921/2032
Citations for journal articles come in many different forms, although OSCOLA should be consulted if you are citing articles. Most commonly they are cited with an author(s) and title of the articles, year and/or volume number, journal title or abbreviation, and then page number. Quite often you will not get all of these elements but you should hopefully have enough to identify and locate the article either in hard copy or online. As with law reports, if the journal title is abbreviated then you can use either the Cardiff Index online or Raistrick's Index to Legal Citations. OSCOLA has the following format for a standard article.
Author(s), | 'Article title' | (year) or [year] if no volume | volume number| (issue number) if relevant | journal title or abbreviation| page number.
Some examples are:
Paul Craig, 'Theory, "Pure Theory" and values in Public Law'  PL 440
Alison L Young, 'In Defence of Due Deference' (2009) 72 MLR 554
As there are many variations in publications it is best to consult OSCOLA for more information on how to cite monographs. Below is an example of the format for a standard book.
Example: Timothy Endicott, Administrative Law, (OUP 2009)