OSCOLA Referencing Guide 2020

Learn how to reference using the Oxford Standard for Citing Legal Authorities (OSCOLA)

Create an OSCOLA Reference

Last modified: 13/01/21 Author: In-house law team

Accurate and consistent referencing is essential in all academic work. Whenever you refer to either the work or ideas of someone, or are influenced by another’s work, you must acknowledge this. Similarly if you make a direct quotation from someone’s work this should be referred to accurately.

There are a number of systems of referencing. This guide offers guidance based on the Oxford Standard for Citing Legal Authorities (OSCOLA) – it differs in some small respects from OSCOLA. The guide also provides some reference to the Harvard System. Please refer to your course handbook or tutors for guidance as to which system they want you to use.

The full OSCOLA document, giving more examples and covering the full range of materials, is available online from Oxford University.


Passages taken from the work of others must be suitably acknowledged with the use of speech marks and a clear reference to the source.

Accurate quoting and referencing give credit both to you and to those whose work you have used.

References and quotes reflect your research and indicate the depth of reading you have undertaken. They also allow others to follow up on the work that you have done.


If you do not accurately reference your work you may commit plagiarism. This is a disciplinary offence under the University’s Assessment Regulations, is regarded as cheating (whether intentional or not), and normally will result in the coursework being marked as zero. More serious consequences are also likely to follow. You should be aware that the Law Society and Bar Council requires all applicants for membership to declare whether they have ever ‘committed an act of plagiarism or cheating in any form of assessment’ and will require two referees to provide written statements to the Society concerning the issue. You should also be aware that employers are extremely reluctant to hire people who have been found guilty of acts of dishonesty.

It is important, therefore, to make a careful note of your sources of information as you are doing your research and collecting materials to incorporate in your answer so that you can identify and acknowledge them when writing up and list those sources in your bibliography.

How to reference

Each reference must be accompanied by a link to details of the source, as outlined below.

Substantial quotations (of three lines or more) should be single spaced, indented from the margin and preceded by a colon. This ensures that there is a clear distinction between your own words and the words you are quoting. Thus:

Howarth has argued that:

In cases involving injuries caused by the police in the course of apprehending suspects, whether the injury is to the suspect or to third parties, a relevant consideration is the public interest in the punishment and prevention of crime. The more dangerous the criminal to public safety, the more risks the police should be entitled to take.

The 1 after the quote links to a footnote giving details of the source quoted, including the page(s). For journal articles, give the first page of the article followed by the page(s) the reference is from, e.g. 252, 254-255

Shorter quotations within the text must be enclosed in quotation marks. Again, the source and page number must also be given. Thus

In Re W (a minor) (medical treatment) (1992) , Nolan LJ asserted that a court has the power and the responsibility in appropriate cases “… to override the views of both the child and the parent in determining what is in the child’s best interests.”

Omissions from the quoted text are indicated by three stops ( … ), as in the example given above.

Without the use of inverted commas in shorter quotations, you will be committing an act of plagiarism.

If you are citing, adopting or criticising another’s point or argument that too should be acknowledged, even though you do not quote directly the words used from the source. Thus:

As Professor Atiyah argued, tort law needs to be reformed .

If you refer to someone’s work as reported in another source, you refer to the source you have read- this is known as secondary referencing. For example, if you read Smith’s arguments in a book by Jones, you would refer to the Jones book in the footnote(s) and bibliography.

Some tutors may use a Harvard style system rather than footnotes. With the Harvard system, you place the author (if not mentioned in the quote), publication year and page(s) in brackets after the quote. So, the first quote would look like this:-

Howarth (1995, p51) has argued that:

In cases involving injuries caused by the police in the course of apprehending suspects, whether the injury is to the suspect or to third parties, a relevant consideration is the public interest in the punishment and prevention of crime. The more dangerous the criminal to public safety, the more risks the police should be entitled to take. You will then give full details of the item in your bibliography. Where there are two or more works by an author in the same year distinguish them by date and letter (e.g. Howarth, 1995a; Howarth, 1995b).



A bibliography gives full references to the books, articles, Parliamentary proceedings, government publications and other sources you have consulted or used. This should appear at the end of your assignment, starting on a new sheet. Items in the Bibliography should be ordered alphabetically by author and, when there is more than one entry by an author, then by date. Where there are two or more works by an author in the same year distinguish them by date and letter (e.g. Howarth, 1995a; Howarth, 1995b).

References should be given in the following style. If using the footnote system, the principal difference between footnotes and bibliography entries is that your footnotes will where necessary specify the pages used for the particular reference.


When listing books, give the author’s initial(s), surname, the book’s title italicised, edition (if not the first), place of publication, publisher, and date. Thus:

G H Treitel The law of contract (12th ed London, Sweet and Maxwell 1995)

If there are two authors name both; more than two, name only the first followed by and others. Thus:

W Twining and D Miers How to do things with rules (4th ed London, Cambridge University Press 1999)

Roy Goode and others, Transnational commercial law: international instruments and commentary (Oxford, OUP 2004)

Edited books should be listed thus:

S Lloyd-Bostock (ed), Psychology in legal contexts (London, Palgrave Macmillan 1981)

One essay in an edited book should give the author’s initials, surname, ‘title of the essay’, edited book reference followed by detailed location in the book. Thus:

M Inman, ‘Police Interrogation and Confessions’ in S Lloyd-Bostock (ed) Psychology in legal contexts (London, Palgrave Macmillan 1981) 145-78


When listing journal articles, give author’s initials, surname, the title in single inverted commas, year, volume, issue, journal name and page references.

C McGlynn, ‘Families, partnerships and law reform in the European Union: balancing disciplinarity and liberalisation’ (2006) 69 (1) MLR 92-107

Use an accepted abbreviated form of the title where available; you can search by title on the Cardiff site. For example, MLR is the preferred abbreviation for Modern Law Review.

If you are unsure of a journal article’s correct citation, it is often found on the first page of the article.

Electronic sources

When quoting from electronic sources, give:

author, title, (date) where available, [online],

<address>, and date accessed, e.g.

J Rayner, Lawyer in the news (2008) [online]

www.lawgazette.co.uk Accessed 20/06/2008

It is generally advisable to use the ‘top level’ address when listing news items such as the one above.

If you are quoting an electronic book from an eBook database, give:

author(s) or editor(s), title, (date), [online], edition (if not the first), eBook from name of database, address, date accessed, e.g.

CIA The world factbook [online] (2008) eBook from Bartleby. www.bartleby.com accessed 20/06/2008

If you quote from a journal article accessed via a database, reference it as if it were a hard copy journal, adding the name of the database and date accessed:

A Ralton ‘Establishing a beneficial share: Rosset revisited’ [2008] Fam Law 424-427 From www.lexisnexis.com Accessed 24/06/2008

Note- the square brackets around the date indicate that the year is an essential part of the reference, as there is no volume number.

Parliamentary Proceedings

You should give the volume of Hansard (either HL or HC, though notice that before 1909 the two Houses did not have separate volumes of Hansard), column number(s), and the date in brackets.


  • Hansard HC vol 357 cols 234-45 (7 February 1940 WA)
  • Hansard HL vol 673 col WA261 (21 July 2005)
  • Hansard HC vol 449 col 1199W (25 July 2006)

The W and WA refer to written answers. If you are quoting from before 2001, put WA in parentheses to indicate a written answer.

To list other materials (such as the reports of law reform bodies or government departments), give the name of the organisation, the title of the report and reference number if any, and the date in brackets. Thus:

Criminal Law Revision Committee, Theft and Related Offences (1966) (Cmnd 2977)

DHSS, Reform of the Supplementary Benefits Scheme (1979) (Cmnd 7773)

Law Commission, Liability for Psychiatric Illness, Consultation Paper No 137 (1995)

To list Royal Commissions, give the title of the Commission’s Report plus year; Cmnd number; Chair’s name. Thus:

Report of the Royal Commission on Gambling (1978, Cmnd 7200, Chairman Lord Rothschild)

Table of Cases

Note: in the text refer to cases by the parties, e.g Mandla v Dowell Lee (1983); Procureur de la République v ADBHU (1985)

Give a list of cases after your bibliography, starting on a new page. List the cases alphabetically by name.

Note: if you have used a database to access case reports, list the details of the cases as detailed below. Do not give the address of the item(s) from the database.

A practice note issued by Lord Woolf CJ stated that

For the avoidance of doubt, it should be emphasised that both the High Court and the Court of Appeal require that where a case has been reported in the official law reports published by the Incorporated Council of Law Reporting for England and Wales it must be cited from that source. Other series of reports may only be used when a case is not reported in the law reports.

[2001] 1 All ER 193

This practice note also introduced neutral citation, whereby

The neutral citation will be the official number attributed to the judgment by the court and must always be used on at least one occasion when the judgment is cited in a later judgment. Once the judgment is reported, the neutral citation will appear in front of the familiar citation from the law report series. Thus: Smith v Jones [2001] EWCA Civ 10 at [30], [2001] QB 124, [2001] 2 All ER 364, etc. The paragraph number must be the number allotted by the court in all future versions of the judgment.

[2001] 1 All ER 193

The case below is an example of a case with a neutral citation and a citation from the ICLR Law Reports.

OBG Ltd and another v Allan and others Douglas and others v Hello! Ltd and others (No 3) Mainstream Properties Ltd v Young [2007] UKHL 21, [2008] 1 AC 1 (HL). For pre-2001 cases you will only need to list the report(s)

Pepper (Inspector of Taxes) v Hart [1993] AC 593 (HL)

In all cases indicate the court in brackets, e.g. (HL) for House of Lords, (QB) for Queen’s Bench.

Table of European Cases

If you have referred to European cases, list them after the UK cases in a separate list. European cases are cited as follows:

European Court of Justice and Court of First Instance

Case 151/73 Ireland v Council [1974] 1 CMLR 429. Joined Cases C-430 & 431/93 Jereon van Schijndel v Stichting Pensioenfonds voor Fysiotherapeuten [1995] ECR I-4705

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

Where possible cite the official reports, the European Court Reports (ECR). If an ECR report is unavailable, the second best report is usually the Common Market Law Reports (CMLR). The Law Reports, the Weekly Law Reports or the All England Reports can also be cited. For an unreported case, cite the relevant notice in the Official Journal (OJ). If not yet reported in the OJ, then cite the case number, case name, court, and date of judgment.

European Commission competition decisions

Aluminium Cartel [1985] OJ L92/1

European Commission Merger Task-Force/ Competition Directorate

Alcatel/Telettra (Case IV/M042) Commission Decision 91/251/EEC [1991] OJ L122/48

European Court of Human Rights

Cite the official reports or the European Human Rights Reports, using one or the other consistently.

Plattform ‘Ärtze für das Leben’ v Austria (App no 10126/82) (1988) Series A no 139

Young, James and Webster v UK (App no 7601/76) (1982) 4 EHRR 38

Table of statutes

Give a list of statutes after your table of cases, starting on a new page. Statutes should be listed alphabetically by short title and year. Thus:

  • Legal Services Act 2007
  • The Sale and Supply of Goods Act 1994

Table of EU legislation

If you need to refer to EC legislation, do so in a list after the Table of Statutes. Provide the legislation type, number and title, then publication details from the Official Journal (OJ). Order the list by year then number.

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

The format to reference a treaty is, using the EC treaty as an example:- EC Treaty (Treaty of Rome, as amended)