Oscola referencing stands for Oxford Standard for the Citation of Legal Authorities.

It is a law referencing system that was created by Oxford University. It is very important that lawyers and other professionals are consistent and consider their readers as they write.

It becomes easier for a reader to follow a legal argument when the author refers to any legal material in a consistent, familiar, and clear manner.

Oscola referencing is meant to help authors achieve the consistency needed to persuade their readers.

The referencing system is most common for post graduate law students, whereby citations are put in footnotes and also at the bottom of the page.

Oscola referencing was first devised by Peter Birks in the year 2000 in constant consultation with faculty and law students.

Subsequent editions were published b Professor Birks in 2002 and revised by Timothy Endicott and Sandra Meredith in the year 2006.

Before addressing the nitty gritty of Oscola Referencing, it is important that we emphasize on the two types of Oscola referencing as well as the general principles of Oscola referencing.

Quick Links:

1. The General Principles of Oscola Referencing

2. Oscola Referencing Examples

3. Citing Primary Sources

4. Citing Secondary Sources

The Two Types of Oscola Referencing


A footnote indicates the authority of a preceding idea. An Oscola footnote comprises of a footnote marker which is a superscript number in your text, which is linked to the citation at the bottom of your script.

How to Create Footnotes Using Microsoft Word

a. Click your text at the position where you want your footnote (Oscola referencing recommends that the footnote is usually at the end of a sentence following the full stop or other punctuation).

b. Click the references tab in Word and then click Insert Footnote.

inserting a footnote in oscola referencing

Word will automatically enter a footnote marker in your text and move your cursor at the bottom of the page where you should type your citation.

NB: If you wish to add a footnote that precedes an existing footnote, do not worry, Word will automatically remember all your footnotes hence ensuring a correct sequence.

2. Bibliographies

A bibliography includes a categorized list of all the sources used in your academic work. The bibliography is located at the end of your work. It can be accompanied with a full explanation of your bibliography.

The General Principles of Oscola Referencing

With Oscola referencing, each authority ought to be cited in a uniform and consistent manner.

Different types of sources are cited in different formats.

However, there are general rules that apply to all categories of sources:


  • You are required to incorporate quotations that are not more than three lines in your text.
  • Single quotations marks are normally used; however, if you have to submit your work to Turnitin, it is HIGHLY recommended that you use the double quotation marks.
  • Do not include quotations marks for quotations that are more than three lines. In fact, such quotation marks should be done in a paragraph of their own and indented.


  • The footnote marker should be at the end of a sentence. However, if there is need to clarity, you can place the marker directly after the phrase or word to which it relates.
  • The superscript number must be after the punctuation.
  • In the case of more than one citation is a single footnote reference, separate them with semicolons.
  • Footnotes must be closed with a full stop.

Authors’ Names

  • The Author’s name must be written exactly as it is in the publication, however, do not include post nominals such as QC
  • If a publication has more than one author, list the name of the first author followed by ‘and others’
  • If you cannot identify any author, but you can identify an institution or organization claiming the work, site it in the place of an author.
  • If you cannot identify an author of institution responsible for the works, then start your citation with the title of the work.
  • In footnotes, the first name of an author or their initials precede their surname.
  • However, in bibliographies, the surname comes first, then the initials followed by a comma.


  • The pinpoints to pages, parts, paragraphs, and chapters are found at the end of the citation.
  • For cases, the pinpoint paragraphs must have square brackets, for example, [16]. Also, if you are pinpointing more than one paragraph in a case, separate the square brackets having the paragraph numbers with a comma, for example, [16], [26]. On the other hand, if you are citing a span of paragraphs, for example paragraph one all the way to paragraph 8, insert a dash between the first and the last paragraph. E.g. [1]- [8]
  • For anything else other than cases, use ‘ch’ for chapter, ‘para’ for paragraph, and ‘pt’ for part.

Subsequent Citations

  • If a citation is similar to the one before it, put ‘ibid’ followed by any differing pinpoints in the footnote.
  • Use a shortened form if a citation is similar to another, followed by a reference to the footnote and any differing pinpoints, for example, Andrew (n 4) 117


  • The first major word in a title must be capitalized.
  • Do not capitalize minor words such as ‘and’, ‘for’, ‘the’, and ‘or’.
  • Titles of books, similar publications, and any other publication with ISBNs must be italicized.
  • Any other title must be within single quotation marks and not in italics.


  • Do not include ‘st’ or ‘th’ after the day
  • When you are needed to indicate a full date, the format should be ‘1 March 2019’
  • If something spans more than a year, but in the same century, the format is ‘2016-19’

Electronic Sources

  • Citations for sources that are only available online should end with the web address (also called the ‘url’) and in angled brackets (<>), then followed by the date of access expressed in the form ‘accessed 1 March 2019’
  • If an electronic source is also available in hardcopy, always cite the hardcopy version.
  • Include ‘http://’ only if the web address does not begin with ‘www’

NB: All other English writing conventions must be followed.


Oscola Referencing Examples

Before we even start, it is important to recognize the fact that Oscola referencing has two types of reference sources:

  • Primary Sources
  • Secondary Sources

Order of Sources in Footnotes

When you are citing more than one source of the same kind in a single proposition, the sources ought to be arranged in a chronological order.

The oldest source must come first.

The sources should then be separated using semi-colons.

However, if you are citing primary and secondary sources for a single proposition, the primary sources should come before the secondary sources.


Neutral Citations

In the year 2001, the House of Lords, the Privy Council, Court of Appeal, and the Administrative court started to issue judgments with a neutral citation which identified the judgment independent of any report.

All cases with neutral citations must have numbered paragraphs.

The Neutral citations contain the year of judgment, the court as well as 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.

However, neutral citations from the high court include the division in brackets right after the judgment number.

The components of a typical case citation having a neutral citation is as below:

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

Examples of Neutral Citations

Corr v IBC Vehicles Ltd [2008] UKHL 13, [2008] 1 AC 884
Farraj v Kings NHS Healthcare Trust [2009] EWCA Civ 1203, (2010) 11

R (Mahfoud) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2010] EWHC 2057 (Admin)

BMLR 131

Court v Despalliers [2009] EWHC 3340 (Ch), [2010] 2 All ER 451

Re Guardian News and Media Ltd [2010] UKSC 1

UK Primary Legislation

Names of Statutes

An Act ought to be cited by its short title and year in roman, while starting with capital letters for the major words, and without a comma before the year.


Act of Supremacy 1558

Shipping and Trading Interests (Protection) Act 1995


If several jurisdictions are discussed in a work, it is required that you add the jurisdiction of the legislation in brackets at the end of the citation.


Water Resources Act 1991 (UK)


Parts of Statutes

Statutes are divided into parts, sections, subsections, paragraphs, and subparagraphs.

Also, the main text of a statute could be supplemented by schedules, which are divided into paragraphs and subparagraphs. The required abbreviations are as the one shown in the figure below:

abbreviations for parts of a statute in oscola referencing

Use the full form at the beginning of the sentence or when referring to a part of a statute without repeating the name of the Act.

Elsewhere in the text, either form can be used, however, when you are referring to subsections or paragraphs it is conventional to use the short form.

The short form should also be used in footnotes.

In footnote citations of parts of Acts, insert a comma after the year, and a space but no full stop between the abbreviation and the initial number, letter or opening bracket.


Consumer Protection Act 1987, s 2

When specifying a paragraph or subsection as part of a section, use only the abbreviation for the section.

For example, paragraph (b) of subsection (1) of section 15 of the Human Rights Act 1998 is expressed as follows:

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

EXAMPLES in the text

… section 5(1)(a) of the Race Relations Act 1976 … OR … the Race Relations Act 1976, s 5(1)(a) …

… by virtue of section 11(1A) of the Limitation Act 1980 … … as provided by sections 1(2) and 7(2) …
Subsection (1) does not apply to …
. . . as sub-s (3) shows . . .

EXAMPLES in footnotes

16 Criminal Attempts Act 1981, ss 1(1) and 4(3) .

Older statutes

For older statutes, it may be helpful to give the regnal year and chapter number. Crown Debts Act 1801 (41 Geo 3 c 90)

In the above example, the information in brackets indicates that the Act was given royal assent in the forty-first year of the reign of George III.

The abbreviation c stands for chapter.

The Crown Debts Act 1801 was the ninetieth Act to receive royal assent in that session of Parliament, and so is chapter 90.

Citation by chapter number must be used for older statutes without short titles.

Explanatory notes to statutes

When citing explanatory notes to statutes, precede the name of the statute with the words ‘Explanatory Notes to the …’.

When pinpointing, cite the paragraph number(s), preceded by ‘para(s)’ .

Explanatory Notes to the Charities Act 2006, para 15


Cite a Bill by its title, the House in which it originated, the Parliamentary session in brackets, and the running number assigned to it.

Running numbers for House of Commons Bills are put in square brackets; those for House of Lords Bills are not.

When a Bill is reprinted at any stage it is given a new running number.

title | HC Bill | (session) | [number] OR title | HL Bill | (session) | number

The rules for referring to parts of Bills mirror those for referring to parts of statutes (see section 2.4.2). ‘Clause’ and ‘clauses’ may be abbreviated to ‘cl’ and ‘cls’ in the text and should be so abbreviated in footnotes.

Consolidated Fund HC Bill (2008–09) [5] Academies HL Bill (2010-11) 1, cl 8(2)


UK Secondary Legislation

Statutory instruments

Statutory instruments (orders, regulations or rules) are numbered consecutively throughout the year.

The year combines with the serial number to provide an SI number that follows the abbreviation ‘SI’ and which is used to identify the legislation .

When citing a statutory instrument, give the name, year and (after a comma) the SI number.

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

As with statutes, where the same statutory instrument is cited a number of times in the same work, an abbreviated form can be used in the footnotes (such as ‘UTCCR 1999’ for the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contract Regulations 1999), provided due warning is given with the first full citation.

Statutory instruments used to be called statutory rules and orders, and these are cited by their title and SR & O number.

Hollow-ware and Galvanising Welfare Order 1921, SR & O 1921/2032

Rules of court

The Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) and their predecessors, the Rules of the Supreme Court (RSC) and the County Court Rules (CCR), may be cited without reference to their SI number or year.

Cite all other court rules in full as statutory instruments.

For example:

RSC Ord 24, r 14A CCR Ord 17, r 11

CPR Practice Directions (PD) are referred to simply by number, according to the part or rule they supplement.

6A PD 4 .1 7A PD 8 .2

Parts of statutory instruments

The rules for referring to parts of statutory instruments mirror those for referring to parts of statutes. As with statutes, in the text use the full form at the start of a sentence, and either the full or abbreviated form elsewhere. Use the short form in footnotes. In addition to those given above for parts of statutes, use the abbreviations in the figure below:

abbreviations for Parts of statutory instruments in oscola referencing

When referring to parts of the rules of court, do not insert a comma before the pinpoint, and in the case of the Civil Procedure Rules, omit the abbreviations ‘r’ and ‘rr’.


Eggs and Chicks (England) Regulations 2009, SI 2009/2163, reg 7(2) CPR 5 .2(1)(b)


European Union legal sources

Official notices of the EU are carried in the Official Journal of the European Communities (abbreviated to OJ).

The OJ citation is given in the order: year, OJ series, number/page.

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

EU legislation

When citing EU treaties and protocols, give the title of the legislation, including amendments if necessary, followed by the year of publication, the OJ series and the issue and page numbers. Older treaties were published in the C series. With notable exceptions, such as the Lisbon Treaty, legislation is now published in the L series.

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


Protocol to the Agreement on the Member States that do not fully apply the Schengen acquis—Joint Declarations [2007] OJ L129/35

Consolidated Version of the Treaty on European Union [2008] OJ C115/13

Cite Regulations, Directives, Decisions, Recommendations and Opinions by giving the legislation type, number and title, followed by publication details in the OJ.

Note that the year precedes the running number in citations to Directives, but follows it in citations to Regulations.

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


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

Judgments of the European Court of Justice and General Court

EU cases are numbered according to whether they were registered at the European Court of Justice (ECJ) or the General Court (GC).

The EU cases are given the prefix C– (for ECJ cases) or T– (for GC cases).

Give the case registration number in roman and then the name of the case in italics, with no punctuation between them.

Give the report citation in the same form as for UK cases.

The following guideline must be followed:

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


Case 240/83 Procureur de la République v ADBHU [1985] ECR 531 Joined Cases C–430 and 431/93 Jereon van Schijndel v Stichting

Pensioenfonds voor Fysiotherapeuten [1995] ECR I–4705
Case T–344/99 Arne Mathisen AS v Council [2002] ECR II–2905

Case T–277/08 Bayer Healthcare v OHMI—Uriach Aquilea OTC (CFI, 11 November 2009)

Opinions of Advocate Generals

When citing an opinion of an Advocate General, add the words ‘Opinion of AG [name]’ after the case citation and a comma, and before any pinpoint.

For example:

Case C–411/05 Palacios de la Villa v Cortefiel Servicios SA [2007] ECR I–8531, Opinion of AG Mazák, paras 79–100

Decisions of the European Commission

Decisions of the European Commission in relation to competition law and mergers are to be treated as cases.

Give the names of the parties (or the commonly used short name) in italics, the case number in brackets, the Commission Decision number (where available), and the OJ report.

The following format must be followed:

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


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

Georg Verkehrsorgani v Ferrovie dello Stato (Case COMP/37 .685) Commission Decision 2004/33/EC [2004] OJ L11/17

The European Court of Human Rights

 Judgments of the European Court of Human Rights

Cite either the official reports, the Reports of Judgments and Decisions (cited as ECHR) or the European Human Rights Reports (EHRR), and be consistent in your practice.

References to unreported judgments should give the application number, and then the court and the date of the judgment in brackets.

When pinpointing, use ‘para’ or ‘paras’ after a comma.


Johnston v Ireland (1986) Series A no 122

Osman v UK ECHR 1998–VIII 3124

Balogh v Hungary App no 47940/99 (ECtHR, 20 July 2004)

Omojudi v UK (2009) 51 EHRR 10

Decisions and reports of the European Commission on Human Rights

Citations of decisions and reports of the European Commission on Human Rights, which ceased to function in 1998, should give the year of the decision in brackets, and then refer to the Decisions and Reports of the Commission (DR), or, for decisions
prior to 1974, to the Collection of Decisions of the Commission (CD).

If available, a
reference to a report of the decision in the EHRR is also acceptable, but if citing the
EHRR for a decision of the Commission insert ‘(Commission Decision)’ after the
rest of the citation. If the decision is unreported, give the application number, and 31 then in brackets ‘Commission Decision’ and the date of the decision.


X v Netherlands (1971) 38 CD 9

Council of Civil Service Unions v UK (1987) 10 EHRR 269 (Commission


Simpson v UK (1989) 64 DR 188

P v UK App no 13473/87 (Commission Decision, 11 July 1988)



The General Principles of Secondary Sources


Titles of books and other similar publications must be italicised, including all publications with ISBNs.

Any other title should be in roman and within single quotation marks.

The first letter of all major words must be capitalized.

Minor words such as ‘for’, ‘and’, ‘or’ and ‘the’, do not take a capital unless they begin the title or subtitle.

Authors’ Names

Give the author’s name exactly as it appears in the publication, however, omit post nominals such as QC.

When judges write extra-curially they should be named as in the publication in question.

If there are more than three authors, give the name of the first author followed by ‘and others’.

If no individual author is identified, but an organisation or institution claims editorial responsibility for the work, then cite it as the author.

If no person, organisation or institution claims responsibility for the work, begin the citation with the title.

Treat editors’ names in the same way as authors’ names.

In footnotes, the author’s first name or initial(s) precede their surname.

In bibliographies, the surname comes first, then the initial(s), followed by a comma.


Cite all publications with an ISBN as if they were books, whether read online or in hard copy.

Older books do not have ISBNs, but should be cited as books even if read online.

Authored books

Cite the author’s name first, followed by a comma, and then the title of the book in italics.

Where a book has a title and subtitle not separated with punctuation, insert a colon.

Publication information follows the title within brackets.

Publication elements should always include the publisher and the year of publication, with a space but no punctuation between them.

The place of publication need not be given.

If you are citing an edition other than the first edition, indicate that using the form ‘2nd edn’ (or ‘rev edn’ for a revised edition).

Additional information should be of a clarifying nature: it may include the editor, the translator or other descriptive information about the work.

Follow the Guideline below:

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


Timothy Endicott, Administrative Law (OUP 2009)

Gareth Jones, Goff and Jones: The Law of Restitution (1st supp, 7th edn, Sweet & Maxwell 2009)

If a book consists of more than one volume, the volume number follows the publication details, unless the publication details of the volumes vary, in which case it precedes them, and is separated from the title by a comma.

Pinpoint to paragraphs rather than pages if the paragraphs are numbered.


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

Julian V Roberts and Mike Hough, Public Opinion and the Jury: An International Literature Review (Ministry of Justice Research Series 1/09, 2009) 42

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

 Edited and translated books

If there is no author, cite the editor or translator as you would an author, adding in brackets after their name ‘(ed)’ or ‘(tr)’, or ‘(eds)’ or ‘(trs)’ if there is more than one.


Jeremy Horder (ed), Oxford Essays in Jurisprudence: Fourth Series (OUP 2000)

Peter Birks and Grant McLeod (trs), The Institutes of Justinian (Duckworth 1987)

If the work has an author, but an editor or translator is also acknowledged on the front cover, cite the author in the usual way and attribute the editor or translator at the beginning of the publication information, within the brackets.


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

K Zweigert and H Kötz, An Introduction to Comparative Law (Tony Weir tr, 3rd edn, OUP 1998)

Contributions to edited books

When citing a chapter or essay in an edited book, cite the author and the title of the contribution, in a similar format to that used when citing an article, and then give the editor’s name, the title of the book in italics, and the publication information.

It is not necessary to give the pages of the contribution.

Follow the guideline below:

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


Justine Pila, ‘The Value of Authorship in the Digital Environment’ in William H Dutton and Paul W Jeffreys (eds), World Wide Research: Reshaping the Sciences and Humanities in the Century of Information (MIT Press 2010)

Older works

Books published before 1800 commonly have as ‘publisher’ a long list of booksellers; in such cases it is appropriate to cite merely the date and place of publication.

When citing a recent publication of an older work, it may be appropriate to indicate the original publication date within the brackets and before the publication details of the recent publication.


Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan (first published 1651, Penguin 1985) 268


Cite an encyclopaedia much as you would a book, but excluding the author or editor and publisher and including the edition and year of issue or reissue.

Pinpoints to volumes and paragraphs come after the publication information.

When an encyclopaedia credits an author for a segment, give both the author and the segment title at the beginning of the citation.

If citing an online encyclopaedia, give the web address and date of access.


Halsbury’s Laws (5th edn, 2010) vol 57, para 53
CJ Friedrich, ‘Constitutions and Constitutionalism’, International

Encyclopaedia of the Social Sciences III (1968) 319

Leslie Green, ‘Legal Positivism’, The Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy (Fall edn, 2009) <http://plato. Stanford. Edu/archives/fall2009/entries/legal- positivism> accessed 20 November 2009


 Hard copy journals

When citing articles, give the author’s name first, followed by a comma.

Then give the title of the article, in roman within single quotation marks.

After the title, give the publication information in the following order:

  • year of publication, in square brackets if it identifies the volume, in round brackets if there is a separate volume number;
  • The volume number if there is one (include an issue number only if the page numbers begin again for each issue within a volume, in which case put the issue number in brackets immediately after the volume number);
  • The name of the journal in roman, in full or abbreviated form, with no full stops; and
  • The first page of the article. 

The guideline indicated below should be followed:

author, | ‘title’ | [year] | journal name or abbreviation | first page of article


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


  • 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 

Case notes

  • Treat case notes with titles as if they were journal articles.
  • Where there is no title, use the name of the case in italics instead, and add (note) at the end of the citation.
  • Example:
  • Andrew Ashworth, ‘R (Singh) v Chief Constable of the West Midlands Police’ [2006] Crim LR 441 (note) 

Online journals

When citing journal articles which have been published only electronically, give publication details as for articles in hard copy journals, but note that online journals may lack some of the publication elements (for example, many do not include page numbers).

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

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

Pinpoints follow the citation and come before the web address.

Follow the Guideline below:

author, | ‘title’ | [year] OR (year) | volume/issue | journal name or abbreviation | <web address> | date accessed


Graham Greenleaf, ‘The Global Development of Free Access to Legal Information’ (2010) 1(1) EJLT <http://ejlt .org/article/view/17> accessed 27 July 2010

James Boyle, ‘A Manifesto on WIPO and the Future of Intellectual Property’ 2004 Duke L & Tech Rev 0009 <www. law. duke. edu/journals/ dltr/articles/2004dltr0009 .html> accessed 18 November 2009

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