• First devised by Peter Birks in 2000, in consultation with law students and faculty at Oxford University and with Oxford University Press.
  • Originally designed for use within Oxford University.  But now OSCOLA is used by law schools throughout the UK and overseas.
  • Based on common practice in UK legal citation but with a minimum of punctuation.
  • Used by the Oxford University Commonwealth Law Journal
  • OSCOLA is a guide to legal citation, not a style guide.
  • When citing materials not mentioned in OSCOLA, use the general principles in OSCOLA as a guide, and try to maintain consistency.





Reasons for Citing
  • To acknowledge the work of another author or resources referred to so as to avoid plagiarism
  • To prove that the research is substantiated by facts
  • To enable other researchers to trace cited references for their own use
  • Legal writing is more persuasive when the author refers to legal materials in a clear, consistent way.
  • Provides evidence for your claims by citing your sources.


Ways of Acknowledge Sources

1. Footnote

  •  In the text of the paper when the source is quoted, paraphrased, or summarized (in-text citations).
  • Any source you reword (paraphrase) or copy (quote) must be credited in in-text citation which should be describe in the footnote.

2. Bibliography/References

  •  In an alphabetical list at the end of the paper or research work.
  • The in-text citations help the readers to find the sources in the Reference List.


General Principles


In-Text Citations in the form of footnote
  • There are no 'in-text' citations.
  • OSCOLA uses FOOTNOTE style 
  • All in-text citations are in FOOTNOTES



1. Citation

When you acknowledge a source, place a footnote marker after the full stop at the end of the sentence or after the word or phrase to which it relates.

2. Footnote

When referring to a publication for the first time, provide a full reference to the source at the foot of the page. Subsequent references to the same source can then be provided in abbreviated form.

3. Bibliography

A bibliography listing all of the sources that you have cited in your work should be provided after the main body of text and any appendices.

Primary sources

Primary sources tells you how to cite Cases, Legislation and Statutes.

Understand the legal terminology 

Types of Legislation

1. Primary legislation  - Acts of Parliament or Statutes

2. Secondary legislation - Statutory Instruments (SIs, which are often called Codes, Orders, Regulations, Rules)

Acts Bills Cases Legislation Neutral  Citation  
Understand the Common Abbreviations



  • Do not use full stops in abbreviations.
  • EU indicates that it is a decision by one of the courts of the EU 
  • C indicates that the decision was delivered by the Court of Justice
  • 2005 is the year decision was made
  • 542 indicates that it is the 542nd ECLI in respect of the year in question.
Formats and Examples





Short Title Date

Immigration Act 2014


Case name - Neutral citation

R (Bancoult) v Secretary of State for Foreign Commonwealth Affairs [2008] UKHL 61




Secondary Sources

Secondary sources tells you how to cite everything else i.e. Books, Journal Articles, Conference Papers, Websites, Blogs, Newspaper articles etc.


Formats and Examples





Author, Title (Edition, Publisher date)

Nadine El-Enany, Bordering Britain: Law, Race and Empire (1st ed, Manchester University Press 2020)

Journal Articles

Author, 'Title' Journal title  Volume(Issue) (Date): Page numbers


Peter Fitzpatrick, 'Racism and the Innocence of Law' Journal of Law and Society 14(1) (1987): 119-32


Author, 'Article Title' (Date) Website Title <URL> accessed date.


Carwyn Jones, 'Is Dicey dicey?' (2021) UK Constitutional Law Association <https://ukconstitutionallaw.org/2021/01/18/carwyn-jones-is-dicey-dicey/> accessed 5 February 2021



Reference List

Your bibliography will be made up of all the sources you have cited in your work. It should be placed at the end of your work after the main body of text and any appendices. References are listed alphabetically in the bibliography.

References is bibliography are similar in format too, but not quite the same, as the citations you would use in footnotes. 

  • Do not close a bibliography reference with a full stop
  • The author's surname precedes their forename for which only an initials should be used in a bibliography
  • Case names are not italicised in a bibliography

In the footnote, the whole name is displayed followed by a comma e.g. John Smith

In the bibliography, only surname followed by initials and a comma are used e.g. Smith J,

General Rules

Author's Name

  • Give author's name exactly as it appears in the publication.
  • If there are more than 3 authors, give the name of the first author followed by 'and others'.
  • if no individual author is identified, but an organisation, begin the citation with the title.
  • if there is no mention of any author or organisation, begin the citation with the title. 
  • Treat editors' names in the same name as authors' names. 
  • Italicise titles of books and similar publications, including all publications with ISBNs. 
  • Capitalize the first letter in all major words in a title.
  • Minor words such as 'for', 'and', 'or', and 'the' do not take a capital unless they begin the title or subtitle.



Citation in a footnote: 

 Reference in a bibliography: 

If you are citing more than one item by the same author, list the items chronologically starting with the oldest. After the reference to the first item, you can replace the author's name with two em-dashes(--).



Reference for OSCOLA 4th edition from Faculty of Law, University of Oxford is available here.

Document No. WP/113

Issue 1 

2 December 2022