Using OSCOLA - FAQ
In a legal or academic piece of work you are expected to support your arguments with relevant authoratitive sources. You should footnote both primary and secondary sources as appropriate wherever necessary. When using sources either by direct quotation or by paraphrasing they should be cited in a footnote.
A footnote is marked with a superscript number,1 which should appear after any punctution and is usually found at the end of a sentence.2 If a footnote relates to an item in brackets (as here3) it should appear before the closing bracket. According to OSCOLA 'a quotation need not be footnoted separately from the name of the source from which it is derived if the two appear in the same sentence.'4
1 If citing several items in a list you can cite each in a separate footnote after each comma or place a single footnote marker at the end of the sentence and include all the items in the footnote in order (chronological) separating them from each other by a semi-colon. If one is most relevant you can give it precedence and insert See also before listing the less relevant items
2 The full stop may be replaced by a a question mark or exclamation mark .
3 Square brackets in OSCOLA are reserved for specific uses.
4 Faculty of Law, University of Oxford, OSCOLA: Oxford Standard for the Citation of Legal Authorities (4th edn Oxford University 2010) 3
Footnotes are NOT normally included in the word count of a piece of work at Portsmouth. However, they should be used primarily to give details of sources you have referenced. If you feel it necessary to add clarification or further information you may do so but your lecturer may ignore additional information included in a footnote if they think it belongs in the main body of the text and is being used to reduce your wordcount.
You must reference anything you use which is not your own work in order to avoid being accused of plagiarism. However, you will find that many departments at Portsmouth do not allow you to use lecture notes as the source for your essays. You should use the reading list and any slides, notes which your lecturer has given you and turn to the sources listed in these when writing your essay. If your lecturer has not indicated where they got their information, and you want to use it, ask for their source.
- Keep a careful note of all sources used as you prepare your assignments.
- Record all the details you need about a library book (including page numbers for any quotations) before you return it - someone else may have the book if you try to go back and check later.
- Make sure you write down the source details you need on any photocopies you make or that they are properly aligned so that page numbers and headings are clearly visible.
- Remember to print or save details of any webpage you want to refer to (your tutor may ask to see this) and record the date when you accessed the information.
- Legal databases such as Westlaw and Lexis Library will usually list a number of citations. You should use the most authoratitive citation listed preceded by ou should include any neutral citation (which will start either UK or EW) if given.
- With any abbreviation you should remove full stops used to indicate abbreviations.
- A useful source for deciphering abbreviations is the Cardiff Index of Legal Abbreviations.
- The details needed for a book can be found on the front and back of the title page. Ignore any reprint dates; you need the date when the first, second, third edition, etc. of the book was published, according to which edition of the book you are using.
- Make sure you locate the name of the publisher rather than the printer or typesetter. You need the name of the publisher in your bibliography.
- The place of publication should be a town or a city, not a county or country. If in the UK, just the town or city. If in the USA, the town is unlikely to be mistaken for a place in the UK, but add two letter state code if confusion could arise e.g. Cambridge MA for Harvard University Press. If more than one place of publication is listed, just choose the first one.
- The library catalogue gives the place of publication and publisher's name, if you are in any doubt.
- If you haven't got the book, it is probably best to try and retrace your steps. If it is an item you borrowed via the library you can look at your loan history under My Account in the library catalogue and check basic details. If it is something you read in the library check the catalogue for details. If you obtained the book from another source, www.copac.ac.uk is useful for verifying bibliographical details.
- The details needed for a journal article can usually be found on pages which contain the article, but you can also check the contents list or front cover of the journal issue. Legal databases such Lexis Library and Westlaw will usually give you the correct abbreviation for a journal title. Another useful source for preferred abbreviations is the Cardiff Index of Legal Abbreviations. With any abbreviation you should remove full stops used to indicate abbreviations.
- Access electronic sources again directly by retracing your steps through the relevant e-book collection, e-journal article or database.
- It is very important that when you use general Internet sources, other than facsimiles of printed articles or books, you record at the time the full details, including the internet address (or URL).
- The details you need can be more difficult to identify, but the first resort is again to examine the original item.
- More information on feature films can be found on IMDB (Internet Movie Database)
- The fullest details can be found by using the combined details link for a specific film.
- If you are tracking a specific DVD edition of a film to identify extras you may find the merchandising link useful.
Television and Radio programmes or recordings
- The details you need can be more difficult to identify, but the first resort is again to examine the original item.
- Television and radio channels may publish some information on their websites.
- Tracing details of these after the broadcast can be difficult. The best source of information is TRILT (Television and Radio Index for Learning and Teaching) which gives details of television and radio programmes schedules from 2001 onwards for over 330 different channels plus a substantial selection of terrestrial television programmes back to 1995. However, this may not give you responsibility data.
- A general web search with what details you do have, may help track down a source for details.
Italics are used for the titles of cases in text and in footnotes, but not in case tables or lists in bibliographies.
Italics are always used for the titles of books and similar publications (ie those with ISBNs) in text, footnotes, and bibliographies.
Italics are used for journal titles and serial publications e.g law report series (ie those with ISSNs) if they are written in full in text, footnotes, and bibliographies but not if they are abbreviated.
Italics are used for titles of overarching websites e.g blog titles, company websites but not for individual webpages.
Italics are used for foreign words or phrases in text.
Italics are not used for titles of statutes, statutory instruments, less formal publications with no commercial publisher or ISBN, or for individual web pages. In the latter two cases, the title is indicated by enclosing it in single quotation marks.
Citations of cases decided before 1865 do not require the court, and nor do citations of cases with a neutral citation but where the main citation of the case does not make the court clear you should indicate the court in the citation.
In the footnote the court would appear between the first page of the law report and the pinpoint in round brackets
Crofter Hand Woven Harris Tweed Co Ltd v Veitch  AC 435 (HL) 436.
In the case list in the bibliography it would appear at the end of the citation after the first page.
Crofter Hand Woven Harris Tweed Co Ltd v Veitch  AC 435 (HL)
Capitalise significant words in the title, as on the title page of the original. It is particularly important to remember to capitalise all the significant words in the titles of legislation.
Wherever possible use any alternative internal indexing such as
|Paragraph/s||para 23 or  / paras 3-5 or [3-5]|
|Part/s||pt 2 / pts 2-4|
|Regulation/s||Reg 1 / regs 4-7|
|Section/s||S 6 / ss 8-10|
|Sub-section/s||Sub-s 3 / sub-ss 10-12|
|Supplement/s||Supp 5 / supps 7-9|
These are often more precise and are frequently referred to as pinpoint references.
If several are given, choose the first.
The edition statement goes in the bracket after the title of the book, immediately before the publisher. For example:
S Woolcock, ‘European trade policy’ in H Wallace and W Wallace (eds), Policy-making in the European Union (4th edn Oxford University Press 2000).
Remember OSCOLA does not require you to pinpoint the pages of any chapter.
If you have used a couple of chapters and have referenced these chapters properly in your bibliography, there is no need for another reference to the whole book in the bibliography as well.
List the earliest work first and subsequent works in chronological order. The second and subsequent works can be listed beneath the first with a double em dash instead of the author's name.
You should always try to read any source in the original rather than someone else's interpretation and you should never cite a footnote to it from another work. However, if reading the original is not practical, you should link the journal article or book (which you have read) to that which your source (which you have not read) cites by using the word "citing". For example the footnote will look something like this (the pinpoint page at the end refers to the page you have read, not the pinpoint page in the original source:
Art. 14(1) and (2) Harvard Draft Convention on Piracy (as cited in A Petrig and R Geiss, Piracy and Armed Robbery at Sea: The Legal Framework for Counter-Piracy Operations in Somalia and the Gulf of Aden ()UP 2011) 140).
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).
If it is a case citing another case cite the first case, followed by 'citing' and then cite the second case. For example:-
SG&R Valuation Service Co LLC v Boudrais et al  EWHC 1340,  IRLR 770  citing Miles v Wakefield Metropolitan Borough Council  AC 539.
In such cases you should make every effort to locate primary sources so they can be included in your bibliography but if the secondary citation is a secondary source you might simply list the item you have actually read.
- Reference: Faculty of Law, University of Oxford, OSCOLA: Oxford Standard for the Citation of Legal Authorities (4th edn Oxford University 2010) 35.
- Suggestion re sources cited in a secondary source on this page are modelled on FAQs on the OSCOLA website (https://www.law.ox.ac.uk/oscola-faqs) but have not yet been discussed and approved by the OSCOLA editorial board.
In OSCOLA you should always arrange your bibliography in separate sections for Cases, Legislation and Secondary sources. Each section should be arranged alphabetically. Cases and Legislation are arranged in alphabetical order by title. Secondary sources are organised by the author’s surname (or title where there is no author).
You do not number the items in your list.
- Microsoft Word automatically converts two hyphens into a em-dash if you type a word after before and after.
- You can also add one through the selecting insert>symbol> and then choosing from the list of symbols.
- The em-dash can be created on the PC by holding down the ALT key and typing 0151 on the numeric keypad with Number Lock on. Only the numbers on the right hand keypad do this, not the numbers above the letters.
- On the Mac, press Shift-Option and the minus key to make en em-dash.
In OSCOLA you separate out the primary legal sources, i.e. cases and legislation, from all other secondary sources which are listed separately in alphabetical order by the author's surname. To compose these listings you can take the basic footnote entries and remove their pinpoint references. Case names should have italicisation removed and be listed alphabetically by title or first significant word.
Depending on the nature of your dissertation, it may be necessary to subdivide cases and legislation by jurisdiction.
Do not list books, journals, newspapers etc. separately unless specifically asked to do so by your marker.
Faculty of Law, University of Oxford, OSCOLA: Oxford Standard for the Citation of Legal Authorities (4th edn Oxford University 2010) 10-12 [1.6] [1.7].
- Letter from Gordon Brown to Lady Ashton (20 November 2009)
- Email from Amazon.co.uk to author (16 December 2008)
- Written feedback on first level 1 assignment received by author from Cheryl Buck (16 February 2016)
- Second level 1 assignment by author (15 April 2016)
In a law textbook you should find a Case List at the front of the book. If there is not, or if you doubt the accuracy of the case citation as presented in the book’s Case List, the quickest solution is to go to Westlaw: https://capitadiscovery.co.uk/port/items/620009. Login via the Academic pathway, select University of Portsmouth, and at the University of Portsmouth-branded login page, use your University login details.
Once you have accessed Westlaw, use the Cases menu option listed at the top of the page.
Use the Party names search box to search for the case you require. Select your particular case by the date. Or, you can go the Case Analysis to see the subject matter of the case.
Once you locate the case you require, select the citation(s) that appear in the Where Reported section. If this begins with UK or EW, select that one and the following citation for your reference. See this example:
 EWHC 1040 (Ch);  1 W.L.R. 3487;
Remove the full stops indicating abbreviations, replace the separating semi-colon with a comma, and put a full stop at the end. Put the footnote marker after the case name in your essay, and include the full citation to the entire case in your footnote. See this example:
Footnote example for entire case:
1St Andrew's (Cheam) Lawn Tennis Club Trust, Re  EWHC 1040 (Ch),  1 WLR 3487.
If you are going to use a specific a specific phrase or quotation from a case in your essay, you need the pinpoint page in your footnote as well. Place a comma after the reference to the first page of the case report and then type the specific page number on which your phrase or quotation is found.
To find the specific page number, look for the bold, purple asterisk and number (example: *3489) or use the pdf link in the upper right corner to see a pdf of the original source.
Footnote example showing a pinpointed footnote for a specific quote or phrase from a case:
1St Andrew's (Cheam) Lawn Tennis Club Trust, Re  EWHC 1040 (Ch),  1 WLR 3487, 3489.
OSCOLA (Oxford Standard Citation of Legal Authorities)
The full official guidance on OSCOLA referencing
OSCOLA (2006) - for guidance on referencing international sources only
OSCOLA Quick Reference Guide
Handy guide with examples of the main primary and secondary sources
For sources not specifically referred to in OSCOLA 4th edition
Citing the law tutorial
A tutorial with useful self-tests for those starting with OSCOLA
Cardiff Index to Legal Abbreviations
Use this to decipher others' abbreviations or to create your own using the preferred abbreviations given here
Using material from other jurisdictions - you need to follow the official guidance for citation in the country in question wherever possible the link will take you to recommended sources for a selection jurisdictions
Inserting footnotes - Please remember you are using footnotes not endnotes
First think carefully if this is an authoritative source this may be deduced from its origins e.g a government website, a recognised charity or research organisation or a reputable academic journal.
Where the author is not identified, and the source has clearly been written/published by a recognised authoritative body you should cite that body that produced the document; if no such body can be identified and the item is clearly written by an anonymous individual/group and published in a trustworthy publication, insert two joined em dashes (like this: —— ) in place of the author's name.