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OSCOLA Referencing Style Guide

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by John Milovich

OSCOLA (stands for Oxford University Standard for the Citation of Legal Authorities) is a guide to citation of legal documents. It was created to support a student’s paper or an article with trustworthy evidence, to demonstrate the variety of sources you used to gather data and to help you to avoid plagiarism. Being developed in the UK in 2000th, OSCOLA has crossed the borders of Oxford University, and now it is used by law schools and publishers around the world.

OSCOLA Footnotes Formatting

In-text citations and endnotes are not used in OSCOLA. It is known as a “footnote style”. It does not matter how you refer to a source: directly, indirectly, as a quotation or by repeating ideas in your own words. Every reference is indicated in a footnote. A superscript number follows the relevant punctuation in the text. If you turn to one source in the sentence, put the marker after the full stop. The number appears after the commas (if any) or the citation itself in the case of referring to several ideas. If the cited phrase is in brackets, put the marker before the closing bracket. All numbers are decoded at the bottom of the page on which they are placed. Read the tips below to find out how to do it without mistakes:

  1. Full stops are not used after abbreviations (OSCOLA instead of O.S.C.O.L.A.) or after the v (for versus)
  2. Footnotes are closed with a full stop
  3. A comma stands between distinct parts of a citation, e.g. between the author’s name and the title
  4. Every major word of a title starts with a capital letter
  5. The author’s initial or first name goes before his surname
  6. Colons stand between a title and a subtitle

It is always easier to understand something if you see an example. That’s why we gladly share illustrations of the most popular legal citations with you:

  • Titles of books are written in italics. The other titles are given in single quotation marks.
  • Publications which can be retrieved online only end with the URL in angled brackets < >, the date of the last access goes after the web address.
  • Case names are given in lowercase and in italics including the “v” .
  • Bills are cited by their titles, the House from which they originated, the Parliamentary session, and the running number assigned to it.

Quotations in OSCOLA

Use the exact words of the source when quoting in OSCOLA. The mid-sentence reference is placed in single quotation marks. Punctuation is put after the closing quotation mark. The only exception is if it is an indispensable part of the cited phrase. The footnote number is placed after the closing quotation mark and the punctuation. When a quotation is given at the start of a sentence, the first letter is capitalized. Place square brackets around it if it was not capitalized in the source. Use an ellipsis (…) to show that a part of the original text is missing in a quotation.

OSCOLA Bibliographies

Footnotes are similar to bibliographies in OSCOLA, but they are not quite the same. An author indicates all the sources he cites in his paper or article providing separate lists for each category of documents. The items are listed alphabetically within each category. Besides, there are three peculiarities that differ a bibliography item from a footnote:

  • The author’s surname comes first followed by the initial and a comma
  • Initials are used instead of first names
  • Titles of unattributed works are preceded by a double em-dash (--) and presented in alphabetical order
OSCOLA is not so widely accepted referencing style. APA, MLA, Chicago, and Harvard are used more often in student papers. If you are not sure what format you should use, read our article about the most popular academic writing formats.