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Library Guides

Law: Referencing

A guide to all things Library

What is referencing?

Referencing is a system that enables you to accurately record in your assignments the authors and sources you have read and the ideas you have discovered. There are several important reasons why you need to reference correctly:

  • Acknowledge the contribution that other authors have made to your thinking and argument.
  • Demonstrate the extent of your reading and your understanding of the subject area to the person marking your work.
  • Provide the information needed for the reader to trace the sources you have used and to read more on the topic.
  • Avoid committing plagiarism (taking the words or ideas of other people and presenting them as your own), which is an offence under the Academic Regulations and can lead to disciplinary action. See the University page on Plagiarism for more information.

What's OSCOLA?

The referencing style for the Law School at University of Westminster is OSCOLA (which stands for the Oxford University Standard for Citation of Legal Authorities). See the links below for further information and guidance on using this referencing style.

Referencing software

Which reference management software is most suited for managing legal references and outputting citations and bibliographies in the OSCOLA style?

The Law Librarian recommends two free, open-source and ad-free products: Zotero reference management software and the Zoterobib citation generator tool. There are limitations when using these tools - you will need to manually enter some sources (cases and legislation) and some editing of records (e.g. adding abbreviations for journal titles) will be required. Reference management software is also unable to automatically cross reference footnotes. However, this is also a problem for other reference management tools.

  • Zotero as a fully featured reference management software that is ideal for managing large numbers of references and keeping everything saved in one place.
  • Zoterobib is a very simple site that is quick to get started with and can OSCOLA references in footnote or bibliography format. This is ideal for when you need to create a one-off bibliography for an essay but for longer-term use, Zotero might be more suitable.
  • For a brief comparison between the two softwares, see the Zoterobib FAQs