OSCOLA Guide: 10/10 Gift from your Preferred Academic Helper - Custom Scholars

OSCOLA Guide: 10/10 Gift from your Preferred Academic Helper

Designed in 2000 at Oxford University through consultation between the students and faculty, OSCOLA is used primarily in law. The Oxford University Commonwealth Law Journal uses OSCOLA and has been instrumental in the updates to the referencing style since inception. The Oxford University Standard for Citation of Legal Authorities (OSCOLA) is designed to help the author to achieve consistency and to make life easier for the reader of legal publications/writings.

Academic writing styles have two important intentions. The first is uniformity. The paper should maintain the same formatting and referencing throughout. The second intention is consideration for the reader.

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OSCOLA is not absolute but it does attempt to provide guidance and rules for referencing most sources. As far as possible, the guidelines in OSCOLA are based on common practice in UK legal citation, but with a minimum of punctuation. When citing materials not mentioned in OSCOLA, use the general principles in OSCOLA as a guide, and try to maintain consistency.

Unlike most academic writing styles, OSCOLA is not extremely specific on writing elements like punctuation. Instead the guide document borrows those sections from other sources like the dictionary and Hart’s Rules. Hart’s Rules is a creation of Horace Hart designed to standardize English writing.

Referencing in OSCOLA


Unlike APA and others, OSCOLA does not use parenthesis. OSCOLA is a footnote style: all citations appear in footnotes. There are numerous rules to follow when writing footnotes:

numerous rules to follow when writing footnotes

  • Indicate footnotes with a superscript number which should appear after the relevant punctuation in the text (if any).
  • Put the footnote marker at the end of a sentence, unless for the sake of clarity it is necessary to put it directly after the word or phrase to which it relates.
  • If the word or phrase to which the footnote marker relates is in brackets, put the marker before the closing bracket.
  • A quotation need not be footnoted separately from the name of the source from which it is derived if the two appear in the same sentence. Otherwise, separate notes should be used.
  • Close footnotes with a full stop (or question or exclamation mark).
  • Where more than one citation is given in a single footnote reference, separate them with semi-colons.

Citing and Referencing Sources in OSCOLA

Case law

To cite cases, you should ensure to include the name of the case. The volume and court are only included in citation if it is relevant. Citation is a must unless the case has already been mentioned in the text.

In A v B…                        Footnote – A v B [year] court number


Sometimes you may feel like it is more natural to include information about legislation in the text like:

The X Act of Year protects….

But when this is not the case, then it becomes imperative that the law be cited through the footnote. Therefore the citation would look like this:

X Act Year, Section


No matter the number of authors. No matter whether you are about to cite a chapter or the whole book. Unlike most other academic writing styles, OSCOLA requires the name in the exact order it appears in the source. But then, like most other academic writing styles ‘University Press’ is often shortened to ‘UP’. Therefore a reference entry for a book would appear like:

First Name Last Name, Book Title (Edition, Publisher Year).

An example would look like:

Robert James Waller, The Bridges of Madison County (Grand Central Publishing 1995).

Certain older books are listed by OSCOLA as ‘works of authority’ and given special abbreviated citations. This list is provided in the OSCOLA guide.  For example page 75 of the third volume of Blackstone’s Commentaries would be cited as:

3 Bl Comm 75.

Journal Articles

Journal articles are important in academic writing as they provide a backdrop for new papers. Just like the abbreviation UP, some commonly used journals may be abbreviated like the Modern Law Review for example which is abbreviated to MLR. Therefore a reference entry for a journal source would look like:

Author, ‘Article Title’ [Year] Volume Journal Page.

An example would look like:

Sarah Paterson and Adrian Walters, ‘Selective Corporate Restructuring Strategy’ [2022] 85 MLR 55. < https://doi.org/10.1111/1468-2230.12767> 23 October 2022

Internet Sources

Lately, people are using more electronic sources than they are hard copies. The internet offers more convenience and options for sourcing. If you source a publication online which is also available in hard copy, cite the hard copy version. There is no need to cite an electronic source for such a publication.

Citations of publications that are available only electronically should end with the web address (or ‘url’) in angled brackets (< >), followed by the date of most recent access, expressed in the form ‘accessed 1 January 2010’. Include ‘http: //’ only if the web address does not begin with ‘www’.


Referencing newspapers in OSCOLA. Photo by Rishabh Sharma on Unsplash

The general rule is to start with the author then the title of the source then additional information and the year of publication in brackets. The same is true for newspapers. When citing newspaper articles, give the author, the title, the name of the newspaper in italics and then in brackets the city of publication and the date.

Some newspapers have ‘The’ in the title and some do not. If known, give the number of the page on which the article was published, after the brackets. If the newspaper is divided into sections, and the page numbering begins afresh in each section, put the section name in roman before the page number, with a space but no comma between the two.

If the reference is to an editorial, cite the author as ‘Editorial’. If the article is sourced from the web and there is no page number available, provide the web address and date of access.

For example,

Author, ‘Article Title’ Newspaper Name (Place of Publication, Date) Page OR <link> Access Date

Points of Concern in OSCOLA

Abbreviation and Punctuation

OSCOLA uses more abbreviations than most other academic writing styles. It adds to the abbreviations that are already common in academic writing. For example, ‘Appeal Cases’ would be abbreviated to ‘AC’.

From the examples above, it is clear that OSCOLA is not too concerned about punctuation as long as all the necessary information has been included. Abbreviations and initials in author’s names do not take full stops. Often when punctuation is not observed, confusion arises therefore OSCOLA uses commas in such instances.

Use of Foreign Words

OSCOLA is used primarily to style law papers. Law uses a lot of Latin words. The standard rule regarding foreign words is to italicize the word. The same is true for writing in OSCOLA. This is unless the word is a quotation. Provide a translation immediately afterwards in brackets, or in a footnote, if required.

Do not italicize words that are in common usage in legal English, such as ultra vires, stare decisis, obiter dicta, ratio decidendi, a priori and a fortiori. Commonly used abbreviations, such as i.e. and e.g., are not italicized and have no full stops.


It is not advisable to use too many quotations in academic writing. However, in some cases it may be necessary to create a certain effect. Quotations from other works, cases, statutes and so on must be faithful to the original, except where it is necessary to change quotation marks from single to double, or vice versa. There are rules to using quotations regardless:

  1. Any comments on the quotation, such as ‘emphasis added’, should be in a footnote.
  2. Incorporate quotations of up to three lines into the text, within single quotation Marks.
  3. Present quotations longer than three lines in an indented paragraph, with no further indentation of the first line.
  4. Quotations within short quotations take double quotation marks.
  5. Punctuation follows the closing quotation mark, unless it is an essential part of the quotation, as a question or exclamation mark might be, or unless the whole sentence is a quotation. The footnote marker comes last, after both the closing quotation mark and the punctuation.
  6. Do not use quotation marks, except for single quotation marks around quotations within quotations.
  7. Leave a line space either side of the indented quotation.
  8. When a quotation begins in the middle of a sentence in the text, the first letter of the quotation should be capitalized if the quotation itself is a complete sentence, but not otherwise. When a quotation begins at the start of a sentence in the text, the first letter should be capitalized, and square brackets placed around it if it was not capitalized in the original text.
  9. When intervening text is missing from the quotation, or if it ends mid-sentence in the original text, use an ellipsis (…) to indicate that some of the original text is missing. Leave a space between an ellipsis and any text or punctuation, except quotation marks.
  10. If a quotation is incorporated into the text, then no more than a comma (at most) is required to introduce it.
  11. Generally, a colon is used to introduce an indented quotation.
  12. When it is necessary to attribute a quotation or citation within a quotation to its original source, omit the footnote marker from the original text in your quotation, and give the original author’s citation in your footnote. If it is not necessary to attribute such a quotation or citation because it is either implicit or irrelevant, omit the footnote markers or citations and add ‘(footnotes omitted)’ or ‘(citations omitted)’ after the citation in your own footnote.


Usually, the footnotes would suffice but then in some cases there is a need for a list of all the sources used in the paper in a bibliography. However, the appearance of sources in the bibliography is different from the appearance in the footnotes.

There are several points of difference:

First, the author’s surname should precede his or her initial(s), with no comma separating them, but a comma after the final initial.

Second, only initials should be used, and not forenames.

To illustrate, a footnote would appear like:

First Name Last Name, Book Title (Publisher Year)

A bibliographical entry would appear as:

Last Name First Initial, Book Title (Publisher Year)

Third, the titles of unattributed works should be preceded by a double em-dash.

Fourth, works should be arranged in alphabetical order of author surname, with unattributed works being listed at the beginning of the bibliography in alphabetical order of first major word of the title.

Fifth, If citing several works by the same author in a bibliography, list the author’s works in chronological order (starting with the oldest), and in alphabetical order of first major word of the title within a single year.

Sixth, after the citation of the first work, replace the author’s name with a double em-dash.

Seventh, Alphabetize works by more than one author under the first author’s name, but place them after that author’s sole-authored works.

Eighth, if a first author has more than one co-author, arrange the co-authored works in alphabetical order of co-author surname, and if you are citing more than one work by the same first author and co-author, arrange the works in chronological order, repeating the co-author’s name each time.

Isn’t a Bibliography Same as a Reference List?

No. It is not. One has more than the other. A reference list contains only sources you have cited in-text in your assignment while a bibliography is a list of all the sources you used to generate your ideas about the topic including those cited in your assignment as well as those you did not cite.


As is the case with any other academic writing style that uses both footnotes and bibliographical referencing, OSCOLA can be complex. This is especially true for newbies, that is, those who are new to drafting and presenting academic papers. It takes some practice to get it right without needing to refer anywhere. Therefore, feel free to contact us. We will gladly take on the task for you.

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