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Legal Skills and Research: Citation

Information and resources on legal skills and legal research techniques.

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Quick guide to Citation

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  For US legal material you often hear references to the Bluebook.

There are interactive guides to using OSCOLA. The Institute of Advanced Legal Studies offers everyone Using OSCOLA and Cardiff University has Citing the Law .

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 [2001] 2 AC 550 

 Dingmar v Dingmar [2006] EWCA Civ 942;[2007] Ch.109 

 Example :


 Richards v Westgate Ltd (unreported, 20th July 1995)  Brampton v Rust [2008] 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 [2001] 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


 Neutral Citations

 Since 2001/02 all cases in the UK have been given a neutral citation which is designed to aid the use of electronic sources in court.

 A neutral citation is constructed as follows:

The first element is the calendar year, put in square brackets [  ].
Next are the abbreviations for the court which heard the case.  You may come across the following.

  • UKHL House of Lords (from 2001-2009)
  • UKSC Supreme Court (from 2009)
  • UKPC Privy Council (from 2001)
  • EWCA Civ Court of Appeal Civil Division (from 2001)
  • EWCA Crim Court of Appeal Criminal Division (from 2001)
  • EWHC High Court (over 2001/2002 see more detail below)

 The third element is  the unique (case) number - without brackets.
R v H [2003] EWCA Crim 13

 If the citation is to a High Court decision as a whole, the Practice Direction states that the appropriate divisional abbreviation should be placed in ( ) after the case number. The HC divisions are below: 

  • Administrative Court  (Admin) (from 2001)
  • Admiralty Court (Admlty) (from 2002)
  •  Chancery Division (Ch) (from 2002)
  •  Commercial Court  (Comm) (from 2002)
  •  Family Division  (Fam) (from 2002)
  •  Mercantile (Mercantile) (from 2002)
  •  Patents Court (Pat) (from 2002)
  •  Queen's Bench Division  (QB) (from 2002)
  •  Supreme Court Costs Office (Costs) (from 2002)
  •  Technology and Construction Court  (TCC) (from 2002)


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 ([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.42

      Crown 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


Secondary Legislation

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' [2005] 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.

 Author,/title/(additional information,/edition,/publisher/year)

 Example: Timothy Endicott, Administrative Law, (OUP 2009)