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Law: Referencing

OSCOLA Referencing Style

Aston Law School students are expected to use the OSCOLA style of referencing when they are citing legal sources.  OSCOLA (The Oxford University Standard for Citation of Legal Authorities) is designed to facilitate accurate citation of authorities, legislation, and other legal materials. OSCOLA is edited by the Oxford Law Faculty, in consultation with the OSCOLA Editorial Advisory Board.

This page offers some handy hints and advice on how to manage your references and citations.

Citing legal sources

The components of a typical case citation are the case name, the neutral citation and the law report . However, neutral citations are a relatively recent development (2001 onwards), so many case citations consist only of the case name and the law report .


A typical case citation including a neutral citation:

The name of the case in italics and the party names separated by a 'v'

Then the neutral citation, followed by the law report series

For example, the case citation below indicates that the case involving Corr and IBC Vehicles Ltd was the thirteenth judgment issued by the House of Lords in 2008, and that a report of the judgment can be found in volume one of the 2008 volume of the series of the Law Reports called the Appeal Cases, beginning at page 884.

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


A typical case citation without neutral citations

The name of the case in italics and the party names separated by a 'v'

Then the citation for the law report series

For example

Donoghue v Stevenson [1932] AC 562.

Things to note

  1. There is no need to repeat the name of the case in your footnote if you have already mentioned it in the main body of your essay or dissertation.  Begin with the neutral citation or law report citation whichever is appropriate.
  2. Abbreviations must not include full stops so WLR instead of W.L.R.
  3. If the case does not have a neutral citation put the abbreviated name of the court in brackets at the end

Donoghue v Stevenson [1932] AC 562 (HL).

Footnotes are not required when citing legislation if all the information is provided in the text.  For example;

"changes to the bail conditions imposed by the Criminal Justice Act 2005 caused much debate"


If the text does not include the name of the Act or a relevant section then your footnote must include the information.  For example;


Things to note

  1. If you do need to cite a piece of legislation, cite an Act by its short title.
  2. When you are citing a section of a statute, add a comma after the Act and then a space between the section abbreviation and the number like in the example above.
  3. When specifying a paragraph or subsection as part of a section for example; paragraph (b) of subsection (1) of section 15 of the Human Rights Act 1998 is

Human Rights Act 1998, s 15(1)(b).

Book citations in a footnote follow this format:

15  Elizabeth Fisher, Risk Regulation and Administrative Constitutionalism (Hart Publishing 2007).

24 Jill Poole, Textbook on Contract Law (11th edn, Oxford University Press 2012).


Book citations in a bibliography follow this format:

Fisher E, Risk Regulation and Administrative Constitutionalism (Hart Publishing 2007)

Poole J, Textbook on Contract Law (11th edn, Oxford University Press 2012)

Citing a Journal Article in a footnote format

Corryn Walker, 'How to get students into the Library: revamping a university library's welcome campaign' (2017) 17 (4) LIM 239.

When you citing a journal article you may need further guidance - the main exceptions are listed below

  1. Generally, Aston Law School requires the abbreviation of the journal title.  If you are unsure what the abbreviation of the journal title should be please refer to the Cardiff Index to Legal Journals
  2. If there is more than three authors give the name of the first followed by 'and others'
  3. The year is in round brackets if the journal has separate volume numbers.  If there is no volume put the year in square brackets.   
  4. Only include an issue number if the page numbers start again for each issue within the volume.  
  5. If you wish to pinpoint you wil need to put a comma after the First Page of the Article so for example 

Corryn Walker, 'How to get students into the Library: revamping a university library's welcome campaign' (2017) 17 (4) LIM 239, 242.

Citing a Journal Article in a Bibliography

Walker C, 'How to get students into the Library: revamping a university library's welcome campaign' (2017) 17 (4) LIM 239.

Check with your lecturer responsible for setting you assessment whether they want a

  • Reference List  (sources you have used for your assessment)
  • Bibliography (everything you have looked at even if you have not cited it).

The order of materials is generally a "Tables of Cases", "Legislation", other primary legal sources cited. If you are including a table, they should come after the Table of Abbreviations and be in order of cases, then legislation and then other materials.

Table of Cases

  • Do not italicise party names
  • Separate cases from different jurisdictions
  • Cases should be listed in alphabetical order of the first significant word


Table of Legislation

  • List every statute cited in the work
  • The entry for each statute should be sub-divided to show the which parts of the statute are cited where
  • Secondary legislation should follow primary legislation
  • The Table should be listed in alphabetical order of the first major work in the title.


Secondary Literature
Secondary sources are cited in alphabetical order by author surname.  Use the information cited in your footnote to create your Bibliography - just tweak it slightly!  The author surname comes first followed by the initial.  This helps to put the Bibliography in surname order.

Unattributed works should be presented by a double em-dash and this takes them to the top of your alphabetical list.

-- The Voice of Experience (GrosSett and Dunlap, 1993)

OSCOLA Tutorials

Cardiff tutorial on citing the law
The resource was devised by Cathie Jackson and Ian Bradley, Information Services staff at Cardiff University and was partly funded by the UK Centre for Legal Education. The 4th edition revisions have been added by Matthew Davies and Lynn Goodhew.

Law Port
Law PORT is a collection of free-to-use training resources from the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies. Each module within Law PORT is designed to improve the legal research or referencing skills of law PhD and MPhil students in a key area. Self-paced and interactive, the resources can be accessed anywhere and at any time. Though created with postgraduate researchers in mind, other individuals engaged in legal research or with an interest in legal information literacy may also find Law PORT useful.

Referencing and avoiding plagiarism

Referencing is the practice of acknowledging and describing other pieces of work that you have read or used whilst completing your own work.

Find out more at the Learning Development Centre (LDC).

Useful books on referencing

Cite Them Right Online

Your guide to referencing and avoiding plagiarism

You may have come across the book Cite Them Right before. The Library is excited to share with you the interactive online version of this book.

Cite Them Right Online will help you reference a wide range of sources, including: books, films, journals, web resources, images, tweets, and much, much more.

The site's interactivity means that you can find the information that you need quickly and easily. You'll wonder how you ever survived without it!

Access Cite Them Right Online via the Library's A-Z list of databases, HERE.

Referencing sources from Library SmartSearch

  1. Find the item (e.g. book or article) you require in Library SmartSearch
  2. Click on the title to access the full record for your item
  3. Click the button on the right hand side of the screen
  4. Choose the most appropriate format for your task (check with the tutor marking your work if you're not sure)
  5. Check the reference thoroughly before copying and pasting it into your document

Alternatively, use the button to export your reference directly to your reference management software.


A commercial reference management software package, used to manage bibliographies and references when writing dissertations and articles.

  • The desktop version of EndNote should be installed on all Aston University PCs - if it's not available on the one you use, contact the IT helpdesk
  • There is also a web-based version of EndNote with limited functionality (registration required - free to Aston staff and students), but which may be useful if you wish to access your EndNote Library from a number of different computers.

Consult the  EndNote X7 - The Little EndNote How-To Book

Or watch this video for more guidance

Alternatively, catch up on Aston University's Research Bites 2014, where you can learn how to "Cite it! Sort it! EndNote it!"

Accessing full-text content from reference management tools

If the reference management tool you use allows you to access full-text content, you will need to input authentication information in your settings in order to use this feature off-campus:

This authentication URL should work with most of our subscribed resources, but if you find that you encounter an error, please try the OpenURL route from the reference management tool, or check that we have access to the content you need using Library SmartSearch.

Please note that EndNote is not currently compatible with either our Authentication system or our OpenURL link resolver.

Alternative reference management software

Don't get on with EndNote? There are lots of other reference management programs out there!