Using OSCOLA - Citations

1. An overview of citation (in-text referencing)

2. Citing authors

3. Using capitalisation

4. Journal title abbreviations

5. Abbreviations of words and phrases for footnotes

6. Using brackets in legal references

7. Using punctuation

8. Cross referencing your own work

9. Cross-citation

10. Citing judges

11. Using quotations

12. Citing cases from non-UK jurisdictions

13. Citing Cases: Information for Non-Lawyers


1. An overview of citation (in-text referencing)   [Index]

OSCOLA uses footnotes, e.g.    

This essay is an assessment of the new retirement unfair dismissal regime, introduced by the Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 20061 in October 2006, to implement the UK’s obligations under the age strand of the EU Framework Equal Treatment Directive.2 

Footnotes should include the pinpoint reference to identify the exact page, paragraph number (for cases), section, regulation or article (for legislation) which contain the ideas you are quoting or paraphrasing. Paragraph numbers are enclosed in square brackets. If you are referring to a general argument, you may choose to refer to a journal article or book, rather than to a precise page, e.g.    

1 Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006, SI 2006/1031 reg 2.

2 Council Directive (EC) 2000/78 establishing a general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation (EU Framework Equal Treatment Directive) [2000] OJ L303/16 art 3.

3 Power v Regent Security Services Ltd [2007] EWCA Civ 1188, [2008] 2 All ER 977, 987.

When you cite more than one source in a footnote, put the sources in chronological order, with the oldest first. If one or more of the sources are more directly relevant than the others, cite these first, and then cite the less relevant ones in a new sentence, beginning 'See also'. If you are citing legislation and cases in a footnote, put the legislation before the cases, and if you are citing both primary and secondary sources in a footnote, put the primary sources before the secondary ones. Multiple citations in a footnote should be separated by a semi-colon, e.g.

3 Secretary of State for the Home Department v E [2007] UKHL 47, [2008] 1 All ER 699 (HL) 702; SJ Fredman, 'Equality: A New Generation?' [2001] ILJ 145, 158.


2. Citing authors   [Index]

Author names are given with initials or first names, followed by the surname. For example:

TA Baker

For up to three authors, separate the names with commas, and add the word and before the last author’s name. For example:

TA Baker, John Hart and AFK Davis

For four or more authors, give the first author’s name followed by and others. For example:

TA Baker and others

If no personal author is given, check to see if any corporate body has acted as publisher or claimed editorial responsibility, and use that as an author e.g. Ministry of Justice, Department for Constitutional Affairs. If you can find no person or body acting as author, and you are convinced your source is an authoritative one for your purposes, begin the footnote with the title.

In your bibliography, only initials should be used, not forenames. The author's surname should precede his or her initial(s), with no comma separating them , but a comma after the initial(s). For example,

A citation in a footnote:

Doreen J McBarnet, Conviction: Law, the State and the Construction of Justice (Oxford socio-legal studies, Macmillan 1981) 67.

A citation in a bibliography:

McBarnet DJ, Conviction: Law, the State and the Construction of Justice (Oxford socio-legal studies, Macmillan 1981).

If you are citing several works by the same author in your bibliography, list the author's works in chronological order (starting with the oldest), and in alphabetical order of the first major word of the title within a single year. After the citation of the first work, replace the author's name with two joined dashes --.


3. Using capitalisation   [Index]

All footnotes start with a capital letter, except where they start with the word ibid. Titles of Acts, books and articles are always shown with capital letters for every significant word. Minor words such as the, for, and, or etc do not have capitals unless they appear at the start of the title or subtitle.


4. Journal title abbreviations   [Index]

Use the Cardiff Index to Legal Abbreviations to choose the preferred abbreviation for law journals, if one is available, but omit punctuation. You can also use this database to find out what abbreviations mean. If you link back to the University of Portsmouth via the ISSN/ISBN you can also check for printed items in the Library.


Use the abbreviation shown in the publication itself, omitting any punctuation.


Where no preferred abbreviation is given, abbreviate titles using the guidance in the Appendix to the full OSCOLA guide.

OSCOLA does not require the use of full stops in abbreviations e.g. All ER not All E.R.


5. Abbreviations of words and phrases for footnotes   [Index]

Advocate General AG
affirmed affd
appendix app 
article/articles art/arts
chapter/chapters ch/chs
chapter/chapters (of statutes) c/cc 
clause/clauses cl/cls
column/columns col/cols
complier/compilers comp/comps 
Directive Dir
edition edn
editor/editors ed/eds
and following ff
footnote/footnotes (internal to the work) n/nn
footnote/footnotes (external to the work) fn/fns
for example eg
manuscript/manuscripts MS/MSS
number/numbers no/nos
number/numbers (of a Report etc) No/Nos
paragraph/paragraphs para/paras
part/parts pt/pts
regulation/regulations reg/regs
reversed revd
Rex/Regina R
rule/rules r/rr
schedule/schedules sch/schs
section/sections s/ss
subsection/subsections sub-s/sub-ss
subparagraph/subparagraphs subpara/subparas
supplement/supplements supp/supps
that is ie
translator/translators tr/trs
University Press UP
volume/volumes vol/vols


6. Using brackets in legal references   [Index]

Square brackets are used around years in case and journal article citations where the year is essential to finding the case in the printed volumes on the shelf. If this is not the case, because the case or journal article has a separate volume or issue number, round brackets are used.


7. Using punctuation   [Index]

Punctuation in OSCOLA is only used to avoid confusion.

A full stop is used at the end of each footnote. A question mark or exclamation mark may also occasionally be used at the end of a footnote. DO NOT use full stops after abbreviations (QB not Q.B. for Queen's Bench), after the author's initials (DB Smith not D.B. smith) or after the "v" between two parties in a case.

Single inverted commas are used to frame the title of a journal article or report.

A comma is used to separate items that might otherwise run together such as between the author and title, between the publisher and place of publication, between the neutral and next best case citation, and between page numbers.

A colon separates a title from the subtitle.

A semi-colon is used between several citations in a single footnote.


Secretary of State for the Home Department v E [2007] UKHL 47, [2008] 1 All ER 699 (HL) 702; SJ Fredman, 'Equality: A New Generation?' [2001] ILJ 145, 158.


8. Cross referencing your own work   [Index]

You can refer your reader to another portion of your work without using a footnote. Make your reference as precise as possible. For example:

Considering the difficulties in this interpretation rehearsed in Chapter 2 (p10-12) it is clear that...

You should not use vague terms such as 'see above' or Latin terms such as supra, infra, ante, id, op cit, loc cit, or contra.


9. Cross-citation   [Index]

Latin terms such as supra, infra, ante, id, op cit, loc cit, contra, are not widely understood, so do not use them. You can however use ‘ibid’, which means ‘in the same place’ to repeat a reference in the footnote immediately before it.

For example, cross referencing a law report:

12 Bradlaugh v Gossett (1884) 12 QBD 271.

13 ibid 274.

This means ‘in the same work, but this time at page 274’. Alternatively, you can repeat a reference by using ‘n’ to refer to an earlier footnote. For example:

12 Bradlaugh v Gossett (1884) 12 QBD 271.

13 Foakes v Beer (1884) 9 App Cas 605, 611.

14 Bradlaugh (n 12) 274.

For subsequent citations of cases in the same short document or chapter of a long document, a short form of the case name is sufficient to identify the source. Subsequent citations of legislation may use abbreviations or other short forms.

For example, cross referencing a book:

12 W Strunk and EB White, The Elements of Style (3rd edn, Macmillan 1979) 16.

13 Foakes v Beer (1884) 9 App Cas 605, 611.

14 Strunk (n 12) 18.

Subsequent citations of secondary sources require only the author's surname, unless several works by the same author are being cited, in which case the surname and title of the work (or a short form of the title) should be given.

The second method can be used to refer to any earlier reference, and so can be used more widely than ‘ibid’. Whichever method you choose, it is important to be consistent and not switch back and forth between methods.

Please note: It is advisable only to cross reference in this way within shorter pieces of work or within distinct chapters of a longer piece of work such as a dissertation. If you are citing from a footnote in a different chapter, or if you are unsure, repeat your footnote in full. See OSCOLA 4th edn 1.2.1


10. Citing judges   [Index]

When referring to judges in the text of your work, use their last name and the appropriate abbreviation for their position.

Use J for High Court Judges. For example,

Megarry J recognised that…

Use LJ for Appeal Court Judges. For example,

Glidewell LJ suggested…

Give Law Lords their proper title. For example,

Lord Denning commented on…


11. Using quotations   [Index]

For the footnote, consult the guidance for the style which applies to the original source of the quotation.

The quotation itself must be an exact copy of the original source material unless you need to adjust the use of quotation marks within the extract for clarity. Do not change errors in the original or use [sic]. Comments on the quotation can be made in text or in the footnote as appropriate.

Short quotations (three lines or less)

Quotations of three lines or less are incorporated in the text and should be enclosed within single quotation marks. Quotes within short quotations take double quotation marks, e.g.

Lord Goff suggested 'Power cannot provide an independent justification for transferring shares into the names of the representatives of the creditors. It is exercisable when "the name of any person is, without sufficient cause, entered in or omitted from the register'''.

Incorporate the quotation in the main text of your work within single quotation marks. Any quotation within the extract should then be included in double quotation marks. Punctuation within the extract remains as in the original but you should add your own punctuation if required at the end of the extract outside of the quotation marks. The footnote marker comes last, after both the closing quotation mark and the punctuation. If a quotation is incorporated into the text, then no more than a comma (at most) is needed to introduce it.

Long quotations (more than three lines)

Longer quotations are indented from both the left and right and are single-spaced without quotation marks. Quotes within long quotations take single quotation marks. Generally, use a colon to introduce a long quotation. However, when the lead-in moves seamlessly into the quoted material a comma or no punctuation may be preferable. Begin with an ellipsis (three dots) when a quotation starts mid-sentence, and to indicate anything you have left out, e.g.

Swift J commented on this when dealing with

…well established exceptions to the general rule that an act likely or intended to cause bodily harm is an unlawful act. One of them is dealt with by Sir Michael Foster in the chapter just cited [i.e. Foster's Crown Cases, 3rd ed., p.259]…The learned author at p.260 emphasises two points about such contests: (1) that bodily harm is not the motive on either side, and (2) that they are ‘manly diversions, they intend to give strength, skill and activity, and may fit people for defence, public as well as personal, in time of need.’ For these reasons, he says that he cannot call these exercises unlawful.

Long quotations should be indented as a single spaced paragraph within your text with no further indention of the first line. Do not use quotation marks except for single quotation marks around quotations within the extract. Leave a line space either side of the indented quotation.

When the quotation begins at the start of a sentence, the first letter should be capitalised, and square brackets placed around it if it was not capitalised in the original text. When the quotation starts mid-sentence, the first letter of the quotation should only be captitalised if the quotation itself is a complete sentence. Indicate any omissions of text in the quotation with an ellipsis (...) Leave a space between an ellipsis and any text or punctuation, except quotation marks. A colon can be used to introduce an indented quotation.

If you want to cite a secondary source in your quotation, omit the footnote marker from the original text in your quotation and give the original author's citation in your footnote. If it is not necessary to attribute such a quotation to the original source because it is implicit or irrelevant, omit the footnote marker and add (footnote omitted) after the footnote. If you want to add emphasis to a quotation put (emphasis added) after the footnote.

Punctuation follows the closing quotation mark, unless it is part of the quotation. The footnote marker comes last, after the punctuation.

Depending on the source of the quotation, either list as a primary source under Cases or Legislation, or list as a secondary source under Secondary Sources alphabetically, by author's last name.

Reference: Faculty of Law, University of Oxford, OSCOLA: Oxford Standard for the Citation of Legal Authorities (4th edn Oxford University 2010) 8-9.


12. Citing cases from non-UK jurisdictions   [Index]

Cite primary sources (cases and legislation) as in their home jurisdiction, with the exception that full stops in abbreviations should be removed. 


Give the jurisdiction if necessary.


If the name of the law report series cited does not itself indicate the court, and the identity of the court is not obvious from the context, you should also give this in either full or short form in brackets at the end of the citation. When citing a decision of the highest court of a US state, the abbreviation of the name of the state suffices.

Recommended sources of guidance

International Law

New York University School of Law, Guide to Foreign and International Legal Citations (2006). 

In the absence of any guidance below (From OSCOLA recommendations) Please use guide above for other foeign jurisdictions.


Australian Guide to Legal Citation (3rd edn, Melbourne University Law Review Association 2010) 


McGill Law Review, Canadian Guide to Uniform Legal Citation (8th edn, Carswell 2014).

Canadian Citation Committee, ‘A Neutral Citation Standard for Case Law’ (2000)


Follow the form of citation and presentation generally adopted by the Recueil Dalloz.

Hildebert Kirchner, Abkürzungsverzeichnis der Rechtssprache (13th edn, de Gruyter 2013).


OSCOLA Ireland.


‘The Uniform Citation Rules’ (1989) 39 The Lawyer and (1998) 44 The Lawyer (in Hebrew).

New Zealand

Geoff McLay, Christopher Murray and Jonathan Orpin, New Zealand Law Style Guide (2nd ed Thomson Reuters 201?).

South Africa

Follow the style used in the South African Law Journal


Association of Legal Writing Directors and Darby Dickerson (eds), ALWD Citation Manual: A Professional System of Citation (3rd edn, Aspen Publishers 2006).

The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation (19th edn, Harvard Law Review Association 2010).



13. Citing Cases: Information for Non-Lawyers   [Index]

In a law textbook you should find a Case List at the front of the book. If there is not, or if you doubt the accuracy of the case citation as presented in the book’s Case List, the quickest solution is to go to Westlaw:  Login via the Academic pathway, select University of Portsmouth, and at the University of Portsmouth-branded login page, use your University login details.

Once you have accessed Westlaw, use the Cases menu option listed at the top of the page.

Use the Party names search box to search for the case you require.  Select your particular case by the date.  Or, you can go the Case Analysis to see the subject matter of the case. 

Once you locate the case you require, select the citation(s) that appear in the Where Reported section. If this begins with UK or EW, select that one and the following citation for your reference.  See this example: 

[2012] EWHC 1040 (Ch); [2012] 1 W.L.R. 3487;

Remove the full stops indicating abbreviations, replace the separating semi-colon with a comma, and put a full stop at the end. Put the footnote marker after the case name in your essay, and include the full citation to the entire case in your footnote.  See this example: 

Footnote example for entire case:

1St Andrew's (Cheam) Lawn Tennis Club Trust, Re [2012] EWHC 1040 (Ch), [2012] 1 WLR 3487.

If you are going to use a specific a specific phrase or quotation from a case in your essay, you need the pinpoint page in your footnote as well.  Place a comma after the reference to the first page of the case report and then type the specific page number on which your phrase or quotation is found. 

To find the specific page number, look for the bold, purple asterisk and number (example: *3489) or use the pdf link in the upper right corner to see a pdf of the original source.

Footnote example showing a pinpointed footnote for a specific quote or phrase from a case:

1St Andrew's (Cheam) Lawn Tennis Club Trust, Re [2012] EWHC 1040 (Ch), [2012] 1 WLR 3487, 3489.