OSCOLA Quick Reference Guide

Oscola Reference

Citations play an important role in enhancing the credibility of your paper. If you extract information from some source and then cite it, this gives your audience an idea that you have researched well before writing on this topic. It is also an acknowledgement that you have taken help from another author’s work to build your own work. It is not right to use someone’s work without giving them credits, so it is important you cite whatever you extract. OSCOLA is one of the widely used citation styles and this article has highlighted everything you need to know before formatting your paper using OSCOLA style.

What is OSCOLA Style?

OSCOLA referencing style is widely used to cite information in law papers. We can also say that it is used to cite legal information. Following is a short note to know when you need to provide a citation in your paper.

When Do You Need Citations?

Citations are important in cases when the information you mention is not your own thoughts or ideas. There is an exception to this because you are not required to cite universal facts. If you are writing about the fact that the sun rises in the east, then no citation is needed. Although this is not your own thought, this is a well-known fact. Thus, it requires no citation. Similarly, you do not need citations while writing your personal opinions. Suppose you state a country’s capital, you would not be required to cite it as a fact. However, if you say that ABC is the best city of that country, you will be required to provide the details of who said it and how with explanations.

What Do the Citations Look Like?

OSCOLA referencing styles uses footnotes. There are numbers in the superscript of text. Every number corresponds to an entry that is at the end of the page. This citation style may also require you to prepare a bibliography page for secondary sources at the end of the document. The entries in the bibliography page are more detailed than the footnotes and have a more citation like format. This style also requires preparing a list of abbreviations used, tables, and other sources.

Presenting the Quotations OSCOLA Style

If you are formatting your paper using OSCOLA referencing style and you are required to mention a quotation in the text; you can represent it in the following ways.

  • If the quotation is short, you can present it in quotation marks.
  • If it is a long quotation, you should represent it in a separate paragraph by indenting it.

Citation of Primary and Secondary Sources

The guide for the citation of primary and secondary sources are as follows.

Primary SourcesSecondary Sources
What is considered the sources? Involves Cases, legislation, judgements, bills and acts of parliament Involves books, journals, reports, command papers and articles
Format case name | [year] OR (year) | volume | report abbreviation | first page | (court) author, | title | (additional information, | edition, | publisher | year)
Rule for brackets Square brackets are used if the year is important to identify, if the year also represents the volume number, or if there is no volume number. However, round brackets are used for the year if volume number is available. The rules of brackets for secondary sources are also like primary sources. Square brackets are used when this also represents the volume number. However, round brackets are used if there is a volume number.

OSCOLA Referencing General Principles

The general principles for OSCOLA referencing are as follows.

Rules for Quotations

The rules for quotations were briefly discussed earlier in the topic and detail is as follows.

  • The quotations that are shorter than three lines are mentioned in the text not in a new line or paragraph. These are placed in either double quotation marks or single quotation marks depending on the consistency of the paper.
  • For the quotations longer than three lines, no quotation marks are used, and they are placed in a new paragraph that is too indented.

Rules for Footnotes

  • Footnotes are placed at the end of each page consisting of all the relevant citations of that page.
  • These footnotes are the detailed entries to in-text superscripted numbers placed in the text.
  • If you have extracted a complete sentence from the source, you are required to place the number at the end of it.
  • If there is a phrase or fragment extracted from the source, you can place the number within the sentence or after the sentence depending on your convenience.
  • The superscript number is placed after the punctuation marks if placed at the end of sentence.
  • If there are many citations in a single footnote, you should separate these entries using a semicolon.

 Rules for Author’s name

  • In the citations, the author name is mentioned in the exact format as it is mentioned in the original source.
  • If there are three authors, list them all.
  • If there are more than three authors, list the first author then mention “and others”.
  • If there is no author in the source, write the organization or company that owns the source.
  • If neither the author nor any institution is identified, just cite it using the title.
  • For footnotes, place the author’s first name followed by the surname.
  • In bibliographies, the surname is placed first and then the first name or initials are mentioned.
  • The initial name is followed by a comma.

Rules for Titles

  • The titles of the sources like books, articles, and similar publications are italicized.
  • All other titles except for the ones mentioned above are placed in quotation marks. They are written in italics.
  • The titles should follow the rules of capitalization in which the first letters of all main words are capitalized. For example, Uses of technology would be the incorrect way of writing the article and Uses of Technology would be the correct way. The pronouns and articles are not capitalized.
  • However, the minor words like articles and pronouns are capitalized if they are the first word of the title.

Rules for Pinpoints

  • Pinpoints always come at the end of citation, no matter if they are for chapters, paragraphs, or some other part.
  • Square brackets are used for pinpointing paragraphs, for instance [25].
  • If you are pinpointing more paragraphs, separate them with a comma e.g. [22], [27].
  • If you are pinpointing a series of paragraph, mention first and last paragraph number separated by a dash e.g. [2]-[7]
  • You can also use the abbreviations for a few words like ch for chapter, pt for part, and para for paragraph.
  • You should also mention the page number or range of page numbers.

Rules for Electronic sources

  • If a publication exists in both the hard copy and the online version, you should cite the hard copy version. There is no need to cite the online version for such sources.
  • For the online publications, you should also mention the URL while citing the source.
  • For the sources that do not begin with www. You should use http// in the beginning.
  • You should also include the accessed date after the URL when publication date is not available.

Rules for Dates

  • When you are required to mention the full date of publication, the format followed is date month and year as 12 May 2018.
  • There is no need to mention the date with a suffix like “th” or “st” in the day.
  • If some publication has a long span of time such as many years but are in the same century then it is written as 1978-82.

Rules for Subsequent citations

  • If you have two same citations together i.e., one is to be placed right after the other, you should place the word “ibid” and use a different pinpoint for footnote.

What are Neutral Citations?

Neutral citations are involved in the case when the judgements are passed by some court, these judgments are independent of law report. In such citations, you only mention the year of judgement, court, and judgement number. There is no need to place the court at the end in brackets because neutral citation identifies it.

Editors and Translators

There can be many other contributors to a source other than the author. Editors and translators are the common contributors in most sources. There are the following two situations to mention editors and translators in citation.

  • If there is no author to the source, treat editors and translators as authors by mentioning in brackets (ed), (tr) or (eds), (trs) for more.
  • If there is an author of the source but editors and translators are also mentioned, then cite the author following the usual format and mention editors and translators in the beginning of publication detail.

Online Articles

If an article is published online and has no hard copy, the publication details are a little different.

  • Online sources usually lack a few elements such as page numbers are not available for online publications.
  • The citation of the online article also includes the web address followed by the accessed date.
  • Square brackets are used if the year is the same as volume number.
  • Round brackets are used if volume number is different from the year of publication.


Summing up the whole discussion, OSCOLA referencing style is not difficult to follow while formatting a paper. It needs some specific rules and instructions to be followed. This article has highlighted all those details for you. If you follow the above guide properly, you are good to format a paper using OSCOLA referencing style.