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OSCOLA Referencing Overview

A Brief Guide to OSCOLA Referencing Style

Students pursuing law as a major subject are given many academic projects during college, namely assignments, dissertations, coursework, theses, and project reports. For compiling such documents, they need to take reference from various published sources, such as books, journals, and online databases. But using someone else’s work without giving credit to the person or publishing company is considered as a serious offense known as plagiarism. So, law scholars are asked to cite the sources properly. Another benefit of referencing the source material is that the reader finds it easier to follow an argument if it is backed by the author’s sources.

OSCOLA which stands for The Oxford Standard for Citation of Legal Authorities is considered as the best way to cite a legal document. This referencing style prescribes some guidelines to cite both types of legal documents, namely primary sources and secondary sources. Primary sources include specific legal sources, such as cases and legislative documents. Secondary sources are everything else such as books, journals, and online databases.

General Guidelines

  • OSCOLA recommends the least use of punctuation. So, do not give full stop after abbreviations. For example- use ANLC instead of A.N.L.C. Moreover, close the footnote with a full stop. In case, there are more than one footnote references, separate them with semicolons.
  • Commas are used to separate distinct parts of a book reference, notably between the author and the title.  
  • In footnotes, the author’s first name precedes their surname. But while compiling a bibliography, you should write the surname first, then the initials.
  • While referencing a book, italicize the title and publisher’s name. And, capitalize the initial letters of all the major words of the title.  
  • While citing a case, italicize its name and keep it in lower case. And mention the date in round or square brackets.
  • A Bill should be cited by its title, the House from where it was approved, and the parliamentary session. And, acts should be cited by their short title, capitalizing the initial letters of the major words.

Referencing Primary Legal Sources

1) Cases

If you have taken reference from a case, then cite it in footnotes, by mentioning the name of the case, volume number and page number. Plus, keep the case name in italics.

CaseName|[Year]|Court|Number,|[Year]|Volume|Report  

If you have already used the case name in the main text, then there is no need to write it in the footnote.  

For example:

33 Boulting (n 32) 638.  
34 Phipps (n 31) 124.

Here, the numbers at the end of footnotes indicate the page on which the quotation can be found.

2) Legislation

If you have clearly mentioned about the bill in the text, you need not cite it in the footnote.  

For example:

The case highlights the injustice made to the women as per the Australia's Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (SDA)  

However, if the text does not include the name of the act, then to support the argument you should provide the relevant information in the footnote.

For example:

The court must consider the discrimination made to the women by her employer

1 Australia's Sex Discrimination Act 1984.

Secondary legal sources

1. Books

While citing a book, write the author’s first name or initials followed by the surname. The name should be followed by a comma, and then the title of the book in italics. If the title and subtitle of the book are not separated by punctuation, then use colons between them. Besides this, you should mention all the relevant information about the publisher including its name and year of publication. The place of publication need not be given. If you are citing an edition other than the first edition, indicate that using the form ‘2nd edn’ (or ‘rev edn’ for a revised edition).  

author, | title | (additional information, | edition, | publisher | year).

For example:

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

2) Journals

When citing an article in footnotes, mention the author’s first name or initial(s) preceded by their surname. Then, write the title of the article in Roman style withing single quotation marks. Now give the publication information by writing the year of publication, in square brackets, followed by the volume number, and the first page of the article.

For example:

James Gobert, ‘The Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007: Thirteen Years in the Making but was it Worth the Wait?’ (2008) 71 MRL 413

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