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OSCOLA referencing style Quoting

A Guide OSCOLA referencing system

The Oxford Standard for Citation of Legal Authorities or the OSCOLA referencing standard is normally used to cite cases, law reports, legal journals, legislation and any other law-related item or source of specialised literature. It contains a set of strict rules that the student learning to use the OSCOLA referencing standard needs to know. Proper knowledge of such referencing rules is a prerequisite for writing excellent legal papers.

The OSCOLA referencing standard was designed by Oxford University. The Oxford Law Faculty, after wide consultations with the OSCOLA Editorial Advisory Board, revised the system so as to facilitate an accurate citation of legal materials, legislation, case laws and so on and so forth. Currently, many book publishers, law schools and law journals encourage their students to use the OSCOLA standard in the United Kingdom and many other countries worldwide. For more details about this referencing standard, check dedicated sections from several websites including: University of Portsmouth, the University of Salford and University of the West of England.

Main traits

In any academic paper, the student needs to back up their paper by citing the sources for development of their concepts. This can be done within the text or in footnotes. The same applies to all law and law-related papers. Legal writing normally cites legal sources like statuses and cases along with secondary sources including specialised websites, books, policy statements or journal articles. The OSCOLA referencing standard heavily relies on footnotes for citations. To this respect, in-text citations and end notes are not used in papers which use this system. Theses, books and other work, however, may have citations in tables of legislation and cases and legislation or even in lengthy bibliographies.


The OSCOLA referencing standard involves the use of very little or no punctuation totally. Full stops are never used after abbreviations e.g. the student should write AB, not A.B. In a case comprising of two parties, it should be indicated as “versus” also abbreviated as v. There should be no full stop at the end. A comma is used to separate parts of a reference for a book. The comma is usually found between the title of the book and the name of the author. A colon is placed between the title of a publication and the subtitle. For instance; “Human Trafficking: Law and Practice”.

Citing books and book chapters

The OSCOLA referencing standard, like any other referencing standard, has a number of rules for citing books, sections of books and even chapters. If a book has just one author, it is cited as follows: author’s first name or initials, his/her surname, title of the book in italics, the edition, publisher’s name, place and date of publication. The last four items should appear in brackets. After which, the page numbers for the sources are included. For instance:

Patricia Ewick, The Common Place of Law (1st ed. The University of Chicago Press, London 1998) 37

In case of a book with more than one author, the student should use use (ed) or (eds) after the name(s) of the authors e.g.:
Rogers John Marshall (ed), Healy Michael P. (ed), Ronald J. Krotoszynski, Administrative law, (Wolters Kluwer, Law and Business 2008) 85
In case you’ve cited more than one work done by the same author you ought to list all the works in a chronological order. You don’t have to write the name of the author before every title; just mention the name before the first item and then replace it with two dashes just before other titles.
Example: Kim HLA, Law, Civilisation and Morality (CUP 1996)
– -Ethics and Responsibility (OUP 2001)

Citing Parliamentary Debates

The OSCOLA referencing standard requires the writer to mention whether the debate took place in the House of Lord Hansard or House of Commons or House of Lords Hansard (HL and HC, respectively), followed by an abbreviation “Deb” along with the date, number and column number. All printed pages should have two columns and a “W” placed after the number of the column in the case of HC debates, “WA” before the column number in the case of HL debates. “WA” simply means written answer. The online Hansard should be cited in the same version as the printed one.
HL Deb 4 March 2000, vol 407, cols 659-36

Citing EU Treaties and Legislation

When citing EU legislations and treaties, a student is expected to mention the title treaty title, year of publication, series of the Official Journal, the issue and page numbers where those citations are found. For instance: Consolidated Version of the Treaty Establishing the European Atomic Energy Community [2010] OJ C 84/3

Citing Law Reports and Cases

In the UK, the most importance source for your law report is usually obtained by providing a neutral citation. This applies to cases written after 2001.The most authoritative source, Official Law Reports, should also be cited. Weekly Law Reports would be the next best and then All England Reports. These three sources are the most preferred citations more especially where you cite a case which exclusively includes a specialist series such as the Family Law Reports.

OSCOLA referencing standard requires all case names to be written in the lower case using italics. The date should also be written in square or round brackets. Round brackets are usually applied for the less important dates like those of reports which use the year by year numbering sequence to label the volumes of publication. On the other hand, square brackets are used where there dates of reports for several volumes that number the same sequence within a particular year.

Eric & Peter BC [2001]5 AC710 (HL)
If the party is named Eric & Peter BC, 1990 is the year of the report, 5 is the volume number, AC is the law report title’s abbreviation and HL is the name of the court.

Judgments passed in the High Court or other courts above it are usually assigned a “neutral citation” with a view to locating cases published on the Internet. These include those which have not been reported in the law report series.
Example: Steve v Duncan & Co [2010] UKSC 36, [2011]2 AC118
Names of the parties involved: Steve v Duncan & Co.
Neutral citation: 36th Supreme Court judgement passed in 2010,
Citation to the source where the case has been reported: [2011]2 AC118.

Journal articles

For journal articles, OSCOLA referencing standard applies under a very different rule: the student should write down the name of the author before the article’s title. However, article titles, unlike those of books, are not written in italics. The Main words in the title should also start with capital letters.

Titles for Law Journal articles are also abbreviated. In this regard, the Cardiff Index of Legal Abbreviations will be of great help to the student as a source for more information. Dates of cited articles should be written with the same rules for citation of Law Reports in practice. The volume number, month or issue number (written in brackets where the issue of the journal starts with page 1) and the article page should be written in that order.

Chris J. Johnson, ‘Business and Politics: How Politics Influences (2004) 75 HLR 850
For all journal articles which are exclusively available online, the full URL and date on which the site has been accessed should be mentioned as well.
C Bovis, ‘Future Directions in Public Service Partnerships in the EU
(2011) 2 (2) KLO< http://www.kluwerlawonline.com/toc.php?area=journals&mode=bypub&level=5&values=journals~~european+business+law+review~Volume+24+(2013)view¬_48) > accessed 5 August 2013

The OSCOLA referencing standard usually cites encyclopaedias in much the same manner as citing books. But you should be keen to exclude editors, overseer auditors and publishers. The edition, year, date and number of issue should also be included. It is normally indicated at the foot of the page).
International Encyclopaedia of Comparative Law (1st ed., 1990) vol 3 para 19 IALS Chap 6 April 1990

Newspaper Articles
With regard to newspaper articles the writer ought to mention the name of the author, full title of the article and newspaper title and then parentheses which contain the city, date and pages.


Thomas Peterson, ‘Supreme Court Decision Triggers Outrage among Students’ The Guardian (London 5 Sep 2009) 5
According to the OSCOLA referencing standard, the following rules apply to citation of case notes: where there is no title for an article, mention the name of involved parties in quotes and then add “(case comment)” or “(case note) before citation of the journal.

Citing Websites and Blogs
In citing free websites like government departments as well as professional organisations, you ought to mention the name of the author or corporate author, the title in single inverted commas), type of document ,the full URL and date of access. For instance:
The Associated Press ‘SEC Proxy Access Rule Vacated. Corporate Counsel (FindLaw, 25 December 2012)

OSCOLA referencing standard involves the use of footnotes at the bottom of the page. A running number which is used as an indicator for a footnote usually follows the referenced sentences. When subsequent references to the same book are made, a new footnote should only mention the name of the author, number of original footnote in parentheses and then the new page which you have cited e.g.:

Hans Kelsen puts forth the argument that “a command binds, not because the individual who is commanding has the actual superiority in power, but because he/she is empowered or authorised to issue commands or decrees of a binding nature.” (1). He further says that the “binding force of a command or decree isn’t derived from the command itself rather the conditions under which that condition has been issued.” (2)

1 H Kelsen, General Theory of Law and State (The Lawbook Exchange, New Jersey, 2007) 32
2 Kelsen (n 1) 33

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