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OSCOLA Referencing- A Detailed Guideline To Cite Primary & Secondary Sources

Legal writing appears more persuasive and credible when you refer oscola referencing to legal materials in a familiar, clear, and consistent way. It should be easier for your readers to identify and locate the author’s sources while reading your legal document. This is where oscola referencing comes into play. The full form is “The Oxford University Standard for Citation of Legal Authorities.” And the format has been designed to help students or writers achieve consistency in their writing and citations.

Citing Primary Sources In oscola referencing Format

The primary sources in legal writing usually include cases (from Scotland, England, Wales, Northern Ireland, etc.) and UK ghost writer primary legislation. Let’s see how to cite each type of primary source.

Cases from England and Wales

  • Format (including neutral citations)

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


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

As the example suggests, the case involves two parties- Corr and IBC Vehicles Ltd. It is the 13th judgment issued in 2008 by the House of Lords.

  • Format (excluding neutral citations)

Case name | [year] OR (year) | volume | report abbreviation | first page | (court)


Page v Smith [1996] AC 155 (HL)

Write the year in square brackets only if you use it to identify the law report volume.

UK Primary Legislation

  • Citing Acts

Use a short title and write the year in Roman to cite an act. Use capitals for the major words and do not put a comma before the year.


  • Act of Supremacy 1558
  • Shipping and Trading Interests (Protection) Act 1995
  • Citing Bills


Title | HC Bill | (session) | [number]


Title | HL Bill | (session) | number


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

Citing Secondary Sources In oscola referencing Format

  • Books

Format (with an author)

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


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

Format (without an author)

Cite the translator or the editor just like the way you would cite an author. You need to add brackets after the name ‘ed’ or ‘tr’.


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

  • Articles


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


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


Paul Craig, ‘Theory, “Pure Theory” and Values in Public Law’ [2005] PL 440

In case there’s a pinpoint, put a comma after the first page of the article.


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

  • Conference papers

If the conference paper is available only at a conference or directly from the author, you need the following details:

  • Author’s name
  • The title in quotation marks
  • Title, location, and conference date of the conference in brackets


Ben McFarlane and Donal Nolan, ‘Remedying Reliance: The Future Development of Promissory and Proprietary Estoppel in English Law’ (Obligations III conference, Brisbane, July 2006)

  • Theses

Follow this format while citing an unpublished thesis:

  • The author name and surname
  • The title
  • Type of thesis, university, and completion year in brackets


Javan Herberg, ‘Injunctive Relief for Wrongful Termination of Employment (DPhil thesis, University of Oxford 1989)

  • Websites and blogs

You can follow the general principles to cite websites and blogs in oscola. However, if no author is identified, begin your citations using the title just like you would do in other sources.


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

Wrapping Up

Remember, oscola is a citation guide and not a style guide. So, you may have to refer to the latest editions of The Oxford English Dictionary, Fowler’s Modern English Usage and Hart’s Rules to get a clear idea about punctuation, writing style, and grammar. oscola was first devised in 2000, but it is one of the major referencing formats in all types of legal papers.

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