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Law Skills: 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

Learning the basics of referencing

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 username 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.





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.


It is good practice is to avoid secondary referencing 

Watch a video on secondary referencing

Imagine you are reading a blog post from 2021 called ‘Creating a Forest Food Garden: Higher Education that is disruptive by Design’, written by Perpetua Kirby, John Parry and Daphne Lambert.  

It is located on the British Educational Research Association (BERA) website. You want to include the following information from the blog in your assignment. How would you reference this? 

Paradoxically, this requires a slowing down to attend to feelings and perspectives as a means to identify what to transform together in response to the urgency of the environmental crisis (Kirby & Webb, 2021).  

  • It is good practice in this situation to find the article written by Kirby and Webb (the primary source).  

  • You can then read it directly and paraphrase the point they are making. This means you can also include their article as an in-text citation and in your reference list in the normal way. 

  • It is not accurate to paraphrase or quote the highlighted sentence and cite it as being the words of Kirby and Webb when you haven’t read their article.  

  • The highlighted sentence is actually an interpretation of their words by the authors of the blog (which we would refer to as the secondary source). 

How to include a secondary reference if you need to 

If you are unable to find a primary source to check the information yourself, you can include what is called a secondary reference, which is fully transparent about where the information came from.  

Secondary references should be kept to a minimum in your assignment. 


Check your specific referencing style for how to format a secondary reference, the example below uses APA referencing style: 


In-text citation for the above example 

Kirby and Webb (2021, as cited in Kirby et al., 2021) suggest that …  




… (Kirby & Webb, 2021, as cited in Kirby et al., 2021) 


Your reference list would just include the Kirby et al. blog, as this is the source you have actually read. 

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

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