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Citing Legal Sources

This guide will assist you to cite legal sources for your assignments and dissertations

The Law School uses the OSCOLA referencing style


Other styles are used within the University - use the University's full Referencing Guide for more information.

OSCOLA (The Oxford University Standard for Citation of Legal Authorities) was developed to facilitate accurate citation of authorities, legislation, and other legal materials.

It is widely used in law schools and by journal and book publishers in the UK and beyond. OSCOLA is edited by the Oxford Law Faculty, in consultation with the OSCOLA Editorial Advisory Board.

Cite them right online referencing tool

Introducing Cite Them Right

The University subscribes to Cite Them Right, an online resource designed to help you to reference correctly and avoid plagiarism.

You will need to log in to Cite Them Right, using your university email and password. 



Being able to reference well is not just all about formatting your footnotes, references or bibliography in the right way. 

You also need to understand how, why and when to make use of information from others in your work in a way that acknowledges their contributions and avoids plagiarism.  Academic honesty means always giving full credit for any other people's contributions to your own achievements.

The Cite Them Right Basics of Referencing section provides guidance in these key areas. You an explore:

  • Complete the Cite Them Right Tutorial to learn the principles of referencing.

  • The first time you use the tutorial you will need to register with an email address and a password (this does not need to be your University email address and password).

  • A verification email will be sent to your chosen email.  Check your spam/junk folder for a message from Bloomsbury Digital Resources with an activation link.  You will need to move the message out of your spam/junk folder in order to activate the link

  • Once you launch the tutorial you can choose OSCOLA in order to tailor the tutorial guidance and questions to this style.Screenshot of front page of Cite Them Right Tutorial

  • After you have finished exploring the various topics, you can choose to take an assessment to test and document your knowledge.
  • You can save your certificate of completion as a record for use in skills portfolios or as evidence within job applications.





Good Referencing Practice

Academic honesty means always giving full credit for any other people's contributions to your own achievements.  Failure to acknowledge fully through bad referencing practice may result in plagiarism. 

You can learn more about plagiarism and how to avoid it here.  

When writing at university you will use information from a range of different sources. Your tutors will direct you to some but others you will have to find for yourself. You need to select these sources carefully and acknowledge them in your work by providing in-text citations and a reference list, or in some disciplines, footnotes and a bibliography.

You need to evaluate your sources to assess their reliability, authority and validity before you decide to use them. As a general rule, you should not refer to sources such as book reviews, Wikipedia or lecture notes in your work. Do not use or refer to essays that you have found online as these may come from ‘essay mills’ and are therefore not reliable sources. For further guidance on evaluating sources, take a look at the Evaluating Sources LibGuide Tutorial.

Secondary referencing means referring to a work that you have not read in the original but have learned about from another source.

Watch a video on secondary referencing to learn more.

Examples include:

  • a legal case that you read about in a book rather than reading the case report
  • a piece of legislation that was summarised in a podcast.
  • a journal article that was discussed in a blogpost or on a webpage.

Secondary referencing is not recommended as good academic practice and where possible you should avoid it by tracing and reading the original work which you can then cite in your footnotes and bibliography.

It is good practice to read the original directly so you can review the information and draw your own conclusions and interpretation of the original work.  You can then quote or paraphrase from that original work.

Where you read about an original work in another source you are presented with another’s interpretation of that original work.  The conclusions drawn by the secondary work may be valid but without checking the original, you cannot be sure that there is no inaccuracy or misrepresentation of information.


Using Secondary References

If you are unable to find an original source to check the information yourself, you must use a secondary reference, which is fully transparent about where the information came from.  


This secondary reference is a two part reference.  In your footnote you should

  1. cite the original source 
  2. then in brackets put ‘as cited in’ and cite the secondary source


Original Publication details (as cited in Secondary Publication details).


Quoted in WL Clay, The Prison Chaplain: A Memoir of the Reverend John Clay (London 1861) 554 (as cited in M Wiener,Reconstructing the Criminal Culture, Law and Policy in England 1830–1914 (CUP 1990) 79).

Use the usual OSCOLA principles to compile the reference for your secondary sources – e.g. follow the guidance for a book / journal / podcast etc.


In your Bibliography, the golden rule is that you should cite the item you actually read – so the secondary source only.

In the example above, the Wiener book only would appear in the Bibliography.

For example

Wiener, M Reconstructing the Criminal Culture, Law and Policy in England 1830–1914 (CUP 1990).

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