OSCOLA (The Oxford University Standard for Citation of Legal Authorities) is a citing and referencing style designed specifically for use with legal material. It is widely used in law schools including here at City Law School, so you should be somewhat familiar with it already. 

The style is maintained by the Law Faculty at Oxford University and the current edition is the 4th (2012).  It is due for a new edition but until that happens the latest thinking and updates can be found at the OSCOLA FAQs along with a lot of supporting information to help you out.

A lot has happened since 2012, and perhaps the most significant thing is Brexit. The FAQs have a large section that detail changes to the citation of EU and retained EU Legislation. There is a section on using the European Case Law Identifier (ECLI) when citing EU case law. 

There is also information on citing different material types that you may wish to use in your dissertations, such as: 

  • Judgements citing other judgements 
  • E-books 
  • Speeches 
  • Podcasts 

It is important to note that 4th edition does not cover International Law, so you need to refer to the 2006 edition for the rules of how to cite material from a foreign jurisdiction. 

Some top tips to make using OSCOLA a bit easier:  

  • Take comprehensive notes of what you read as you go along, as it can be time-consuming and difficult retracing your steps to find a bit of information to complete a citation once you’ve moved on 
  • Cite what you have actually read! This is particularly important if you are citing something that you’ve only seen cited in another secondary source 
  • If it exists in print, cite as print. You will almost never need Westlaw or LexisLibrary as part of your citation 
  • If a source has an ISBN, cite it like a book 
  • Websites & Blogs: noting the date you accessed it is vital, websites can change over time 
  • When writing your bibliography remember that an author’s name should be in the format:  Surname, first initial (Smith, J) which is different to the footnote order (John Smith)

There is lots of help available for you on the library webpages. The City Library Citing and Referencing Law LibGuide has links to the current OSCOLA handbook, a video tutorial if you need a refresher of the basics, and more links to support material. The Institute of Advanced Legal Studies also have a good guide and tutorial on using OSCOLA. 

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