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Law: Citing references

A guide to finding information relating to law. Includes links to key resources and sources of help.

General guidance

References in a thesisWhenever you refer to another person's work in your own essay, dissertation or article you must acknowledge them and give full details of your source. You risk being accused of plagiarism if you fail to do so.

The School of Law uses the Oscola and Harvard styles of referencing. Oscola should be used by Law students and Harvard by Criminology students. This page includes guidance on using both styles. For general information on referencing, including an explanation of different citation systems, and guidance on citing specific types of publication, see our Citing references guide.

For help with citing specific types of publication contact your Academic Liaison Librarian, Gordon Connell.

For advice on using references in your work, and how to use them to support your arguments consult the guidance on the Study Advice website or make an appointment with them.

Specific guidance: OSCOLA

The Oxford University Standard for Citation of Legal Authorities (OSCOLA) is a citation scheme for referencing legal materials used widely in law schools and by journal and book publishers in the UK.

It is the favoured scheme of the School of Law School at Reading and you may be required to use it for your essays and assignments. Where this is the case, you should follow any specific direction given by the School on its usage, with guidance for undergraduates provided in Legal Skills: a Guide.

The OSCOLA website contains a range of guidance and support, including online tutorials and style files for referencing management software. For convenience, links through to the official OSCOLA Manual, a reference guide for the most commonly cited legal materials and a frequently asked questions page (FAQs) are provided below:

For international law sources there is an additional guide:

For information on using OSCOLA with EndNote, see below.

Specific guidance: Harvard

Also known as 'author-date' style. In Harvard style the in-text citation can be in brackets in the body of the text or in footnotes, and uses the author's surname and the date of publication, with the page number if it is a reference to a particular page. Full details are only listed in the bibliography or reference list.


Sources for more information


EndNote logoWhen you do your dissertation you could consider using EndNote to manage your references. This bibliographic management package, supported by the University, can be used to store references, and then insert the citation in your Word document, automatically building the bibliography for you in the correct style.

OSCOLA 4th ed. style files produced by Oxford University Law Faculty are available for installation to users with Desktop EndNote on their own personal computers. Read the guidance notes beforehand, as these files modify the software's reference type tables and are not suitable for non-legal referencing use or users.

A more basic OSCOLA 4th ed. style file, also by Oxford University, is provided for your use as an output style on the University's networked Desktop EndNote software and on EndNote online. Note that some manual amendment and formatting of citations is still required to fully comply with OSCOLA and you are strongly advised to read the notes and instructions if using this basic style. Additionally, a sample library of legal resources is available to add to your account, for use as a helpful template when entering details of your own sources.

Find out more on our EndNote guide, including details of training workshops. As alternatives, Mendeley and Zotero both offer OSCOLA functionality and are free to use in their basic forms.

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