A Complete Guide on OSCOLA Referencing Style

What is OSCOLA?

The Oxford University Standard for Citation of Legal Authorities (OSCOLA) is a way of citing and referencing authorities, legislation, and other legal materials. Currently, in its fourth edition, the OSCOLA referencing style was originally developed for use within Oxford University. However, it is now used by law schools throughout the UK and overseas. OSCOLA is edited by the Oxford Law Faculty, in consultation with the OSCOLA Editorial Advisory Board. The definitive guide to OSCOLA referencing and its quick reference guide are available online for free. Note that the 4th edition does not cover international law; you’ll need to refer to the international law section. This guide will, however, provide you with everything under one roof.

About this OSCOLA referencing guide

This guide is intended to help you understand how to source materials correctly and effectively using the 4th edition of the OSCOLA referencing style. It provides all the information you need to know about the style, its history, general principles, guidelines, and application examples. Note that your institution or department may have slightly varying guidelines, interpretations, and requirements that may be specifically required within your discipline.

If you’re a postgraduate or degree law student, most of your law papers will need to have OSCOLA citations. Law papers and essays can sometimes be challenging and deadlines unreasonable. Essay Husk provides experienced law writers for students and busy lawyers. Find out why we’re the ideal OSCOLA law paper research writing service.

OSCOLA Referencing basics 

If you’re wondering what OSCOLA referencing looks like, there are only two things you need to know.

  1. OSCOLA is a footnote style. All in-text citations appear in footnotes at the bottom of each page.
  2. All sources used are organized in a bibliography at the end of the document and grouped according to source types.

In the same vein, should you be wondering why referencing is at all important, our Harvard referencing guide contains a section on the importance of citing your sources.

General OSCOLA referencing guidelines

When using OSCOLA for your papers, aim for consistency and maximum consideration for the reader. Your legal writing script will be more persuasive when you refer to sources in a familiar, clear and consistent way. When the reader can easily identify your sources, they can easily follow your argument. OSCOLA is minimalist and uses minimal punctuation. Below are the general principles in the various categories that you’ll need to observe.


  • Footnote markers ([1]) should always be placed at the end of a sentence unless, for the sake of clarity, you need to put a marker directly after a word.
  • Place the footnote marker after the full stop or comma.
  • For multiple citations given in one footnote, separate the markers with semicolons.
  • Titles of cases and secondary sources should be italicized.
  • Everything cited in a footnote should appear in the bibliography at the end of your paper.

OSCOLA referencing guide footnotes insertion

Are you unsure of how to insert footnotes in your OSCOLA document? The inbuilt footnote creation and management tools in MS Word and Google Docs are your best shot.

  • In MS Word, Click on References tab è Insert footnote as shown in the image below.
Inserting Footnotes in OSCOLA Referencing Style
Inserting Footnotes in OSCOLA Referencing Style in MS Word
  • In Google Docs, click on Insert and select Footnote. The keyboard shortcut for inserting footnotes in Google docs is Ctrl+Alt+F
Inserting Footnotes in OSCOLA Referencing Style in Google Docs
Inserting Footnotes in OSCOLA Referencing Style in Google Docs

OSCOLA referencing footnotes example

Below are examples of different primary legal sources cited in footnotes.

  • Case footnote Formatting example:

            R v Gold[1988] AC 1063 (HL).

  • Statute footnote formatting example:

Human Rights Act 1998.

  • Example of a book footnote citation in OSCOLA

Keith Abbott, Norman Pendlebury, and Kevin Wardman, Business Law (9th ed, Cengage Learning EMEA 2013).

  • OSCOLA referencing articles footnote example (journal article):

David Campbell, ‘Decency, Disobedience and Democracy in Immigration Law’ [2018] PL 413


  • Quotations shorter than four lines should be incorporated within the sentence and enclosed in “quotation marks”.
  • Quotations four lines or longer should be indented and not enclosed in quotation marks.

Formatting Authors’ names in OSCOLA Footnote referencing   

  • The names of authors should be given as they appear in publications, minus Postnominals.
  • For sources with an organization listed as the author, such an organization’s name should be listed as the author.
  • If a work has more than three authors, only list the first author’s name, followed by ‘and others’.
  • For a source with no author available, begin the citation with the title of the work.

Note that in OSCOLA footnotes, the author’s first name or initial(s) precede their surname. In the bibliography, the surname comes first. Use our OSCOLA referencing Style generator for more assistance.

Formatting source titles

  • Titles of books and similar publications (including all those with an ISBN) should be in italics.
  • All other titles should be enclosed with single quotation marks and not italicized.
  • Capitalize the first letter of every major word in a title. Do not capitalize on minor words, such as ‘for’ and ‘or’.

Dates in OSCOLA

  • The format for full dates is ‘4 June 2020’.
  • Do not include ‘st’, ‘nd’ or ‘rd’ after the day
  • If an event spans over several years within the same century, use the format ‘2009-19’.

OSCOLA referencing guide: Pinpoints

A pinpoint is a reference to a specific page, part, chapter or paragraph within a source. This number is included at the end of a page.

  • A footnote should always pinpoint the paragraph number from which the specific information/ judgement is adopted.
  • For cases, paragraph numbers are pinpointed using square brackets [6]. For more than one paragraph, separate the paragraph numbers using commas [2], [6]. If citing a range of paragraphs, separate the first and last paragraph numbers with a dash [17] – [21].
  •  If the paragraph numbers are not available, give the page numbers in parenthesis (2).

Citing the same source more than once in OSCOLA referencing Style

  • For a citation that is the same as the one preceding it, you may use ‘ibid’ (abbreviation for Latin ‘ibidem’ that means in the same place) instead of full text for the subsequent footnote.

Tables and Lists of Abbreviations

For longer works like theses and books, it is customary to add a list of abbreviations and tables of all cases, legislation and other primary legal sources cited in the preliminary pages. Shorter works like essays generally only require footnotes.

The list of abbreviations should appear before the tables. It defines unfamiliar abbreviations used in the text or footnotes. Abbreviations that are part of everyday legal usage should not be defined. See section 4.2 of the OSCOLA referencing website for a list of common abbreviations.

The order of tables in OSCOLA bibliography should be:

  1. Table of cases containing any cases cited in your work. These should be listed in alphabetical order of the first significant word. Unless there are very few cases, you should separate the table into separate sections for different jurisdictions. Case names are not italicized.
  2. Table of legislation and other tables. Other tables include tables of international treaties, UN documents, and other policy documents. These and the table of legislation should appear after the table of cases.

A table of legislation lists every statute cited in the work, with each entry subdivided to show sections and sub-sections of the statute.

OSCOLA Referencing in Law: Bibliography (Reference List)

In OSCOLA, a bibliography is provided at the end of a law thesis or book. In its fourth edition, the style requires footnotes only for shorter works such as articles and essays. However, most law schools require that students demonstrate their ability to cite sources. Be sure to check your style guide for specifics requirements. Should you need assistance with your law essay, don’t hesitate to contact Essay Husk for professional college essays.

What does an OSCOLA Bibliography include?

Your institution may or may not consider abbreviation lists and tables as part of the bibliography. Whichever the case, these sections will always be in the following order:

  1. Table of cases
  2. Table of legislation and other tables
  3. A bibliography with primary and secondary sources

How to format an OSCOLA Bibliography

Bibliographies take the same form as other citations in OSCOLA, with the following exceptions:

  • The author’s surname precedes their initial(s), with no comma separating them. Place a comma after the last initial.
  • Only initials should be used and not forenames.
  • Titles of works whose authors cannot be identified should be preceded by a double em-dash
  • Works should be sorted alphabetically by the author’s surname. Unattributed works should be listed alphabetically at the beginning of the bibliography by the first major word of the title.

Primary and secondary sources should be listed separately, following the guidelines shown below.

Primary Sources

Entries of primary sources in the bibliography are largely the same as their corresponding footnotes. In the bibliography, however, cases are listed in alphabetical order, with cases for different jurisdictions listed separately. As mentioned before, case names should not be italicized. You should also not include pinpoint references, and it’s only logical that a new entry starts on a new line.

OSCOLA Bibliography: Primary Sources Examples


·         Cases

The format for citing cases based on UK law is as follows:


Party names Neutral citation if available, Law Reports citation, Paragraph or page pinpoint if required.

For example:

            [2] Callery v Gray [2001] EWCA Civ 1117, [2001] 1 WLR 2112 [42], [45].


Party names Neutral citation, Law Reports citation.  

For example,

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

·         Statutes and Statutory Instruments


Title date, SI reference if applicable, section number

For example,

Penalties for Disorderly Behaviour (Amendment of Minimum Age) Order 2004, SI 2004/3166


Title date, SI reference if applicable, section number.

Primary legislation:

Act of Supremacy 1558

Secondary legislation:

 Penalties for Disorderly Behaviour (Amendment of Minimum Age) Order 2004, SI 2004/3166


·         EU legislation


Legislation type including amendments [year] OJ L issue number/first page number article pinpoint if required.

For example:

Consolidated Version of the Treaty on European Union [2008] OJ C115/13.


Legislation type including amendments [year] OJ L issue number/first page number

For example:

Council Regulation (EC) 139/2004 on the control of concentrations between undertakings (EC Merger Regulation) [2004] OJ L24/1


Cases since 1989 are designated C if European Court of Justice or T if Court of First Instance.


Case number, Case name [year] Law Report series abbreviation number of first page, pinpoint paragraph (para) or paragraphs (paras) number(s) if required

For example:

Case C–556/07 Commission v France [2009] OJ C102/8.


Case number, Case name [year] Law Report series abbreviation

For example:

Case C–556/07 Commission v France [2009] OJ C102/8



Title Application number if applicable Report details, page pinpoint if required.

For example:

Balogh v Hungary App no 47940/99 (ECHR, 20 July 2004).


Title Application number if applicable Report details

For example:

Balogh v Hungary App no 47940/99 (ECHR, 20 July 2004).

OSCOLA referencing example: Bibliography Entry for Secondary Sources

Books with authors


Author’s name as it appears on the title page, Title: Subtitle (edition, publication dates), publisher, series title if any (series details, publication year), page number pinpoint.

For example:

Gareth Jones, Goff and Jones: The Law of Restitution (1st supp, 7th edn, Sweet & Maxwell 2009), 59.


Books should be ordered alphabetically by author. If multiple works are by the same author, order them alphabetically by title.

More examples

Below, you’ll find Bibliography entry examples for various source types  

Book Chapters

Philip Allott, ‘The Concept of International Law’ in Michael Byers (ed), The Role of Law in International Politics(OUP 2001)

Journal Articles

If the year of publication for the journal article indicates the volume number, indicate it in square brackets [].

For example:

Adrian Keane, ‘Towards a Principled Approach to the Cross-examination of Vulnerable Witnesses’ [2012] Crim LR 407

Referencing online sources in OSCOLA Bibliography

Online journals

Below is an example of an entry for journal published electronically:

Diane Fahey, ‘Can Tax Policy Stop Human Trafficking?’ (2008-2009) 40 Geo J Int’l L accessed 26 April 2011

OSCOLA website referencing

Website with author

Neil Addison ‘Malicious Communications’ (Harassment Law) accessed 26 April 2011

Website source without an author

‘Children Law’ (The Law Society) accessed 26 April 2011<http://www.lawsociety.org.uk/ areasoflaw/view=areasoflawdetails. law?AREAOFLAW=Children law&AREAOFLAWID=9> accessed 26 April 2011

Referencing Newspapers in OSCOLA

Print copy:

Robert Simmons, ‘Protests held in Australia over the abuse of animals in Zoos’ The Guardian (London, 4 November 2011) 22

Soft copy

Sarah Boseley, ‘PrEP HIV drugs: fight for limited NHS funds takes unedifying turn’ The Guardian (London, 3 August 2016) <https://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/aug/03/prep-hiv-drugs-fight-for-limited-nhs-funds-takes-unedifying-turn>


We hope this guide on OSCOLA referencing will help you write better law papers, journals, books and cite your sources better. See this link for a quick summary of the style. For professional legal assistance and A+ college essays, visit Essay Husk today. We’d love to have you as our next satisfied client.