OSCOLA Referencing: What, Why, and How?

Referencing is the foundation of any study or research. But when we talk about legal documents, legal journals, and other legal materials, referencing serves as a helpful medium for the readers to understand what is the subject of the matter and which arguments are being referred to. OSCOLA referencing style allows you to maintain the two most important aspects of any legal document citation, Consistency, and reader consideration. 

Legal writing needs to be effective and persuasive and to make it more convincing, it is necessary to cite different direct and indirect sources. It is similar to making an argument in court except, you have to present facts in front of the reader by making them believe in you and your points. 

Oxford university standard for citation of legal authorities, OSCOLA serves more as a citation guide for legal authorities than a referencing style guide, with the aim of making the life of the reader easier. OSCOLA referencing was first designed to be used only at Oxford university but as time went by, every law school across the UK started using it, and now it is also used in different countries overseas. This referencing guide keeps updating every now and then and is currently in its 4th edition. All the postgraduates in law are required to use this citation system.

OSCOLA citation is a footnote style referencing guide which means that all the references are mentioned in the footnotes. There are no such in-text citations, longer pieces of writings, such as books and theses, citations are also included in the table of cases and legislation and bibliography. When citing any source, as a quotation (directly) or by paraphrasing or referring to ideas in a source (indirectly), one must cite the reference in a footnote, according to the format indicated in the reference guide. Footnotes must be indicated with a number placed in superscript that must appear after the punctuation which is relevant to the citation if there are any. The footnote marker should be kept directly after the word or phrase to which it relates for the sake of clarity for the user; however, it is not necessary, you can place the marker at the end of the sentence as well. If the word or phrase to which the footnote marker relates is in brackets, put the marker before the closing bracket. A quotation need not be footnoted separately from the name of the source from which it is derived if the two appear in the same sentence. Otherwise, separate notes should be used. OSCOLA is a law based referencing model and the sources used in it are divided into 2 types - 

  1. Primary Sources- All the data related to law or all the references derived from different amendments, cases, act bills, etc., are termed as primary sources of citation.
  2. Secondary sources - Books, articles, and other sources are termed as secondary sources of citation.


How to Cite Primary Sources in OSCOLA?

Citing a case in OSCOLA - Many courts now issue judgments with a neutral citation which identifies the judgment independently of any law report. Neutral citations give the year of judgment, the court, and the judgment number. The court is not included in brackets at the end of a neutral citation because the neutral citation itself identifies the court.


  • Citing a case which includes neutral citation - 

Format - case name | [year] | court | number, | [year] OR (year) | volume | report abbreviation | first page

Example Corr v IBC Vehicles Ltd [2008] UKHL 13, [2008] 1 AC 884


  • Citing a case which does not include neutral citation - 

Format - case name | [year] OR (year) | volume | report abbreviation | first page | (court)

Example - Barrett v Enfield LBC [2001] 2 AC 550 (HL)

Citing Primary legislation UK - Primary legislation includes citing different bills, acts, and statutory instruments including orders, rules, and regulations.


  • Citing Acts -

To cite these bills and acts, you can simply use the following steps -

  • Use the short title to quote the name and the year of the bill or act.
  • It is not advised to use the more popular names of the act,
  • Do not insert a comma before the year of the passing of bills/act

Example - Shipping and Trading Interests (Protection) Act 1995


It is also possible that different jurisdictions are mentioned in your work, so it is advised to specify the area of that particular act or bill.

Example - Water Resources Act 1991 (UK)


It should be noted that these acts are also subdivided into subsequent parts. When referencing a single clause or a section, you must mention the relevant abbreviation for the same.

Example - Human Rights Act 1998, s 15(1)(b)

In the above example, you can notice that paragraph b from subsection 1 of section 15 is being referred to.


  • Citing Bills-  

Format - title | HC Bill | (session) | [number]

Example -Consolidated Fund HC Bill (2008–09) [5]


  • Citing Statutory instruments ( rules and orders )

The rules and regulations are numbered with an SI number which is a combination of the serial number of those orders with the year in which they came into existence.

For example - Penalties for Disorderly Behaviour (Amendment of Minimum Age) Order 2004, SI 2004/3166


  • Citing European legal source- The official journal of EU contains all the official notices

Communities (abbreviated to OJ). The letter ‘L’ denotes the legislation series, the ‘C’ series contains EU information and notices, and the ‘S’ series invitations to tender.

Format - legislation title | [year] | OJ series | issue/first page


  • Citing Regulations and Directives -

Format - legislation type | number | title | [year] | OJ L issue/first page 

Example - Council Regulation (EC) 1984/2003 of 8 April 2003 introducing a system for the statistical monitoring of trade in bluefin tuna, swordfish, and bigeye tuna within the Community [2003] OJ L295/1


Citing judgments from different European courts

  • EU cases registered at the European Court of Justice are given the prefix ‘C-‘
  • EU cases registered at the General Court (known as the Court of First Instance until 2009) are given the prefix ‘T-’
  • Judgments from the Civil Service Tribunal (established in 2005) are given the prefix ‘F-’
  • For an unreported case, cite the relevant notice in the OJ. If the case is not yet reported in the OJ, then cite the case number and case name, followed by the court and date of judgment in brackets.
  • When citing an opinion of an Advocate General, add the words ‘Opinion of AG [name]’

Format - case number | case name | [year] | report abbreviation | first page

Example - Case 240/83 Procureur de la République v ADBHU [1985] ECR 531


  • Citing a decision from the European Commission - 

Format case name | (case number) | Commission Decision number | [year] | OJ L issue/first page 

Example - Alcatel/Telettra (Case IV/M.042) Commission Decision 91/251/EEC [1991] OJ L122/48


Citing Cases from Other Jurisdictions - Every jurisdiction has its method of citing their particular court judgments. Try to cite their work in their format but minimize the punctuation. It makes it clear that you have cited these cases from other jurisdictions and therefore maintain consistency in your work.

Examples - Henningsen v Bloomfield Motors Inc 161 A 2d 69 (NJ 1960)

Roe v Wade 410 US 113, 163–64 (1973)


Citing Secondary Sources

How to Cite Books According to OSCOLA Referencing Guide? 

The basic structure to cite a book in OSCOLA referencing is given as -  

Format - author, | title | (additional information, | edition, | publisher | year)

Example - Timothy Endicott, Administrative Law (OUP 2009)


  • Citing a book with multiple authors - When there is more than one author of a book, you need to mention all their names by using “and” as a separator between them. It should also be noted that the version or the edition of the book is necessary to be mentioned if it not the first. 

Example - Gary Slapper and David Kelly, The English Legal System (Routledge 2016) 


-To refer to a specific page, you can simply mention the number of pages at the end of your citation.

Example - Gary Slapper and David Kelly, The English Legal System (Routledge 2016) 82


- If a book consists of more than one volume, the volume number follows the publication details:

Example - Andrew Burrows, Remedies for Torts and Breach of Contract (3rd edn, OUP 2004) 317


-If the publication details of the volumes vary, the volume number precedes them, and is separated from the title by a comma:

Example - Christian von Bar, The Common European Law of Torts, vol 2 (CH Beck 2000) para 76


  • Citing a book with editors and translators - There are a lot of books that do not have authors but do have editors and translators. To cite one such book, use the same format as you would do for an author and mention abbreviations (ed) for an editor and (tr) for translator after their respective names. However, if the book has an author but editor and translators are also credited on the front cover, acknowledge the author in the usual way and credit the translators and editors at the beginning of publication information, in brackets.

Example - HLA Hart, Punishment and Responsibility: Essays in the Philosophy of Law (John Gardner ed, 2nd edn, OUP 2008)


  • Citing the contributions in an edited book - 

Format - author, | ‘title’ | in editor (ed), | book title | (additional information,| publisher | year)

Example - John Cartwright, ‘The Fiction of the “Reasonable Man”’ in AG Castermans and others (eds), Ex Libris Hans Nieuwenhuis (Kluwer 2009)


How to Cite Different Types of Articles According to the OSCOLA Referencing Guide? 

  • Citing a journal article -

Format - author, | ‘title’ | (year) | volume | journal name or abbreviation | first page of the article

Example - JAG Griffith, ‘The Common Law and the Political Constitution’ (2001) 117 LQR 42, 64


  • Citing an online article - 

When citing journal articles that have been published only electronically, give publication details as for articles in hard copy journals.

1) Note that online journals may lack some of the publication elements (for example, many do not include page numbers).

2) If citation advice is provided by the online journal, follow it, removing full stops as necessary to comply with OSCOLA.

3) Follow the citation with the web address (in angled brackets) and the date you most recently accessed the article.

4) Use square brackets for the year a volume was issued.

5) Use round brackets for the year a judgment was issued.

Format - author, | ‘title’ | [year] OR (year) | volume/issue | journal name or abbreviation | | date accessed

Example - Graham Greenleaf, ‘The Global Development of Free Access to Legal Information’ (2010) 1(1) EJLT <> accessed 27 July 2010


  • Citing a newspaper article - 

Format - author, | ‘title’ | name of the newspaper | (city of publication, | date) | page if known

Example - Jane Croft, ‘Supreme Court Warns on Quality’ Financial Times (London, 1 July 2010) 3


Example for an online published newspaper article -

Ian Loader, ‘The Great Victim of this Get Tough Hyperactivity is Labour’ The Guardian (London, 19 June 2008) <> accessed 19 November 2009


Citing Other Sources According to OSCOLA Referencing Guide

  • Citing interviews -

Format - interviewer(s) if not yourself, | Interview with name, position, an institution of interviewee | (location, date of interview)

Example - Interview with Irene Kull, Assistant Dean, Faculty of Law, Tartu University (Tartu, Estonia, 4 August 2003)


  • Citing Personal communications -

    Example- Email from to author (16 December 2008)


  • Citing an encyclopedia- When you want to cite an encyclopedia, you must refer to it as you would refer to any other book except in this you do not need to mention the author or editor and publisher, but you have to include edition and year of release - 

Example - Halsbury’s Laws (5th edn, 2010) vol 57, para 53


  • Citing a blog- Whenever you want to cite a blog or a website, use the following format -

Format - Author of the blog/ website, ‘title of the cited blog’( Name of website, published date ), < URL >, Accessed Date.

Example - Sarah Cole, ‘Virtual Friend Fires Employee’ (Naked Law, 1 May 2009) <> accessed 19 November 2009


  • Citing Hansard- Hansard is the official record of Parliamentary debates usually maintained in the UK, Australia, South Africa, Canada, and New-Zealand for marking some of the extraordinary references and quotes made during a debate. There are 2 courts, the House of Commons and House of Lords, Both of them witness a lot of debates about different aspects of law, governance, etc. 

Format - HL Deb OR HC Deb | date, | volume, | column

Example - HC Deb 3 February 1977, vol 389, cols 973–76

OSCOLA Referencing Simplified by Instant Assignment Help

OSCOLA referencing is a real gem for students who are pursuing law. There is no doubt that the citations serve as the core of any referential document, and it is really necessary to understand the basics of referencing different sources for a report. All the majorly cited sources are covered with free samples of OSCOLA citation. You can bookmark this guide and keep it handy for your personal uses. We will also keep updating it regularly so you don’t lack behind. In case you are having trouble informing these citations, you can always use our free OSCOLA citation generator tool, which can help you with correctly formed footnotes for your citation. 

Remember, no task is intimidating if you know how to get it done. If you still feel uncertain about your citations, or you are looking for assistance with OSCOLA referencing, you can always turn to our experts for professional referencing and writing help. We are available 24*7 to guide you and clear all your queries.

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