OSCOLA Referencing Guide

OSCOLA referencing, sometimes referred to as Oxford referencing, is a style of referencing primarily used in UK academic content related to the law. Legal sources such as cases and statues may be cited, along with secondary sources, for example, books and journals.

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OSCOLA Referencing Overview

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There are two types of citations required in OSCOLA Referencing:

  1. Footnotes
    - used to indicate the authority for the preceding text or idea. There will be a superscript number in-text which corresponds to the relevant authority at the bottom of the page.
  2. Bibliographies
    - located at the end of the work, and include a categorised list of all sources used in the work. A full explanation of the bibliography can be found at the end of this guide.

General guidelines

Under the OSCOLA guidelines, each authority should be cited in a consistent, uniform manner. The different categories of sources are cited in different formats. Before examples are given, some general rules should be mentioned:

  • The footnote should appear after the relevant punctuation in the text, unless for clarity it is necessary to put it directly following the word or phrase
  • If the cited phrase/idea is inside brackets, the footnote should be before the closing bracket
  • Punctuation in citations are minimal, for example, UKHL rather than U.K.H.L.
  • Footnotes should be closed with a full stop
  • Titles of books and case names are to be italicised
  • Semi-colons may be used to separate a reference to two different sources in a footnote
  • Quotations longer than three lines should be presented within an indented paragraph with no quotation marks

Repetition of references and cross-references

When referencing an identical authority to one already referenced you may briefly identify the sources and provide a cross-citation in brackets directing the reader to the number of the corresponding footnote. In the example below, the citation was used in the 4th footnote, therefore the subsequent citation directs the reader to that footnote.

Initial citation: John Roberts, Understanding the Law. (Oxford University Press 1990)

Subsequent citation: Roberts (n 4)

If the subsequent citation is directly following the previous citation, you may use ibid.

Initial citation: John Roberts, Understanding the Law. (Oxford University Press 1990)

Directly following, subsequent citation: ibid.

You can insert a page number following the cross-reference or ibid to cite a different page of the same authority.

Footnotes example

In the text:

'Criminalising a broad range of marginally acceptable business conduct trivialises the criminal sanction and breeds contempt for it, at least among rational actors, which most white collar offenders are.23

In the footnote:

23 Michael E Tigar, 'It Does the Crime But Not the Time: Corporate Criminal Liability in Federal Law' (1990) Am. J. Crim. L. 17,211

Bibliography guidelines and examples

The bibliography should be split into three main sections:

  • Table of legislation
  • Table of cases
  • Bibliography of secondary sources

Table of legislation

The table of legislation should include all treaties, conventions, legislation and statutory instruments cited. These should be ordered in alphabetical order by the first significant word of the title. You may choose to separate the legislation by jurisdiction.

Table of cases

The table of cases should include any cases cited in the work. These should be listed in alphabetical order of the first significant word. You may choose to separate the cases by jurisdiction.


The bibliography should include all secondary sources cited in the work in alphabetical order.

The referencing in the bibliography for all sources will be identical to the referencing in the footnotes, aside from one minor difference in the formatting of the authors name.

Footnotes: First name, surname - John Smith

Bibliography: Second name, first name initial - Smith, J.

OSCOLA Reference Examples

The following guidelines give examples of the citation required in the footnote, so remember to make the required amendments to the author's name in the bibliography.

Primary sources

UK Cases

When referencing a case as authority, you must give the full name of the case along with its neutral citation. Case name should always be in italics both in-text and in the footnotes, but not in the bibliography

Nettleship v Weston [1971] 2 QB 691

Partridge v Crittenden [1968] 1 WLR 1204

If you have actually said the full name of the case in the text, only the subsequent information is required in the footnote. For the above examples, the footnote would only read

[1971] 2 QB 691

[1968] 1 WLR 1204

If you are referencing an exact paragraph/passage of the judgement, a pinpoint reference to the relevant part in the judgment should follow the citation.

Partridge v Crittenden [1968] 1 WLR 1204 [1]-[37]

The years of cases could be in either round or square brackets according to the style of the law report, use the corresponding style.

UK Legislation

Legislation should be cited using its short title and year.

Short title | Year

Sale of Goods Act 1979

Environmental Protection Act 1990

To reference a specific section of the legislation, insert a comma with the section following.

Sale of Goods Act 1979, s 3

Enviromental Protection Act 1990, schedule 2

UK Statutory Instruments

Statutory instruments require the name, year and the SI number.

Name | year | SI number

The Transfer of Tribunal Functions Order 2010, SI 2010/22

Education (Recognised Bodies) Order 1997, SI 1997/1

EU Cases

Case number | case name |[year]| report abbreviation | first page

Case 26/62 Van Gen den Loos v Nederlandse Administratie Der Belastingen [1963] ECR 1

Case 6/64 Costa v ENEL [1964] ECR 585

EU Legislation

Treaties and protocols

<Legislation Title> | [year] | <OJ series> | <issue/first page

Consolidated Version of the Treaty on European Union [2008] OJ C115/13

Directives, regulations, decisions, recommendations and opinions

<Legislation type> | number | title | [year] | OJ L issue/first page

Council Directive 2000/78/EC of 27 November 2000 establishing a general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation

European Court of Human Rights cases

You may cite the official reports, or the reports of judgments and decisions. Just ensure to be consistent with your approach.

Ireland v UK App No 5310/71 (ECtHR, 25 January 1976)

Cases and legislation from other jurisdictions

These should be cited as they are cited in their own jurisdiction.

West v Barnes 2 US 401 (1791

Kerryn Mitchell v The Queen [2015] NZCA 643

Secondary sources

Books with one author

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

Robert Stewart, Land Law, (3rd edition, Oxford University Press, 2013)

James Mattey, Quantity Surveying, (2nd edition, Butterworths, 2012)

Books with two authors

Author 1 and Author 2, | title | (edition, | publisher, | year)

Roger Sexton and Barbara Bogusz, Land Law, (Oxford University Press, 2010)

Books with three authors

Author 1, Author 2 and Author 3 | title | (edition, | publisher, | year)

Stephen Mayson, Derek French and Christopher Ryan, Mayson, French & Ryan on Company Law (18th edition, Blackstone 2001)

Books with four or more authors

Author 1 and others, | title | (edition, | publisher, | year)

Harry Root and others, Management and Ethics (5th edition, Blackwells, 2002)


Author, | 'title' | [year] | volume | journal name or abbreviation | first page of article

Matthew Gibson, 'Getting their "act" together? Implementing statutory reform of offences against the person' [2016] 9 Crim LR 597

Ian Dawson, 'Corporate rescue by the upright rescuer – a trap for the unwary' [2016] 29(6) Insolvency Intelligence 81

Hansard - House of Commons debates

HC Deb | date, | volume, | column

HC Deb 4 November 2004, vol 290, col 400

Hansard - House of Lords debates

HL Deb | date, | volume, | column

HL Deb 24 March 2001, vol 50, col 222

Public Bill committees

Title of bill followed by Deb | date, | column

Health Bill Deb 22 June 2002, cols 99

Websites and blogs

If there is no author, begin the citation with the title. If there is no date of publication, provide the date you accessed it.

Author | 'title' | (Website, date) | <Website URL> | accessed <date>

Marilyn Stowe, 'Divorce petitions: then and now' (Marilyn Stowe, August 1 2016) http://www.marilynstowe.co.uk/2016/08/01/divorce-petitions-then-and-now/ accessed 3 August 2016

'Europe rights official urges Turkey to heed rule of law' (BBC, 3 August 2016) < http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-36964857> accessed 3 August 2016

Printed newspaper article

Author, | 'title' | newspaper | (City of publication, date of publication) | page number

- Robert Simmons, 'Protests held in Australia over the abuse of animals in Zoos' The Guardian (London, 4 November 2011) 22

Online newspaper article

Author, | 'title' | newspaper | (City of publication, date of publication) | <Website URL>

- Sarah Boseley, 'PrEP HIV drugs: fight for limited NHS funds takes unedifying turn' The Guardian (London, 3 August 2016) <https://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/aug/03/prep-hiv-drugs-fight-for-limited-nhs-funds-takes-unedifying-turn>

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