What is OSCOLA?

The Oxford Standard for the Citation of Legal Authorities (OSCOLA) is the preferred referencing style used by the Bristol Law School and the Bristol Institute of Legal Practice. This guidance is for students taking Law degrees only.

If you are a non-law student using legal materials, you may be required to use the UWE Bristol Harvard referencing standard. Please check with your personal tutor.

With OSCOLA, you reference your sources of information in footnotes and a bibliography.

Introduction to referencing

Discover the what, why, when, where and how of referencing at UWE Bristol. Includes common terms and what to include in your assignment word count.

Introduction to referencing
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Official guides

Extra guidance

View supplementary guidance not found in the official OSCOLA guides such as COM/SEC documents, current law statutes (annotated), neutral citations, Home Office and other government publications, foreign law sources, and photographs and other images.

OSCOLA extra guidance
Students using computers in the library.

Footnotes

  • When citing another work in your text, insert a small superscript number (eg 1) to denote a footnote.
  • In the footnote at the bottom of the same page, insert the reference.
  • In your footnote reference, refer to a specific page - or range of pages - if appropriate (this is known as 'pinpointing').

Microsoft Word has an inbuilt utility for inserting footnotes:

Format references

References in your footnotes and bibliography must be formatted in the OSCOLA style - eg, with correct use of italics, punctuation and brackets, and with all the required bibliographic information present and correctly ordered. 

The OSCOLA guides (4th edition) are published - for free - by the University of Oxford's Law Faculty. They contain the definitive and authoritative guidance on how to format your references in the OSCOLA style.

Bibliography

  • At the end of your work (and before any appendices) include all your references in a full bibliography.
  • Your bibliography is a list of every source of information you have used in preparing your piece of work, including sources you have used for background reading but not necessarily quoted from or referred to directly in your work.
  • In your bibliography reference the information source as a whole, not specific pages.

Your bibliography should be laid out in three parts:

  • table of cases
  • table of legislation
  • bibliography (ie, all other secondary sources, such as books, journal and newspaper articles, official publications, etc.).

Your tutor may prefer that your tables of cases and legislation appear separately at the beginning of your work. Always check with your tutor which format you should follow.

Table of cases

  • Cases should be listed alphabetically by case name (eg Brown v Wilson, then Brown v Wright, then Browne v Wright).
  • Cases should be alphabetised by the significant name. So, for example, In re the Estate of Farquar or Re Farquar's Estate should be listed in the table of cases under Farquar's Estate, Re.
  • Unless there are very few cases, you should divide the table of cases into separate sections for separate jurisdictions.
  • European cases should be distinguished between ECJ, CFI and Commission cases and should be arranged in chronological and numerical order by their assigned case number.
  • Shipping and trade mark cases (which are often referred to simply by the name of the ship or trade mark) should be included as normal, but should also have an additional entry in the table included under the name of the ship or trade mark, with a cross-reference to the full name of the case.

Table of legislation

  • Legislation should be listed alphabetically by title.
  • Your table of legislation should be listed with similar divisions to your table of cases to identify legislation from different jurisdictions.
  • You may want to distinguish between primary and secondary legislation (eg having a 'List of Statutes' and a 'List of Statutory Instruments').

Bibliography

  • Sources should be listed alphabetically by author's surname, or by title if no author is given.

Referencing tools

RefWorks: An online service that allows you to store and format references. You can export to RefWorks from the library search and most databases. References can then be formatted in any of the UWE Bristol referencing styles and incorporated into Word documents.

Mendeley: A free reference manager tool that can help you to manage and organise your research and collaborate with others online. It enables you to import citations and research papers from online databases, and it can generate bibliographies.

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Ask a librarian

Library staff are happy to advise on referencing, however, they are unable to proofread academic work.

Ask a librarian with 24/7 live chat. You can also contact the Library by email or phone.

Ask a librarian
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