OSCOLA Referencing: An Overview
The acronym OSCOLA refers to the Oxford Standard for Citation of Legal Authorities. It is used for the citation of most forms of legal documentation and in essays on the law. OSCOLA is a specialist referencing system and although it has elements in common with other referencing systems, such as footnotes and bibliography, there are unique stylistic features in OSCOLA, such as very sparse punctuation, which are essential to know when writing about the law.
The guidance given, on this webpage, is far from comprehensive and you need to consult Denning's guide (available online) for more information. Be aware that Harvard referencing is also frequently used in legal texts but it is essential to use only one referencing style, so everything must be referenced in OSCOLA.
Citing books in OSCOLA demonstrates the absence of punctuation and illustrates how different the style is. The format for citing a book in OSCOLA is as follows:
- Author's name with forename before surname followed by a comma
- Title of book in italics
- Edition, publisher, place of publication and date in parenthesis.
Hence, the OSCOLA citation of a book in both footnotes and bibliography should be as follows:
J. Freeman, Legal Referencing (2nd edit Oxford University Press, Oxford 2007).
- Journal articles in OSCOLA appear thus:
J. Freeman, 'Citing the Law' (2007) 62-4
i.e. Name of author, title of article (in quotation marks, not year of publication, page numbers.
- Electronic references in OSCOLA are cited thus:
J. Freeman, 'Legal References'  <http://legalreferencing.org> accessed 10
Footnotes in OSCOLA should be numbered in sequence throughout. The number within the text should be placed at the end of the sentence containing the quotation. Footnotes should be cited in the same style as used in the bibliography in the first instance but may then be abbreviated. Consult a detailed OSCOLA referencing guide for further information.