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Library Guides

Law: Referencing

A guide to all things Library

Welcome to the referencing guide for Law!

Have you been told you need to use correct referencing in your assignment? Are you not sure what referencing is? Or how to do it correctly? You've come to the right place!

If you're already familiar with referencing, and you just want to check how to cite a particular source using OSCOLA, skip to our Cite Them Right guide (link opens in new tab).

What exactly is referencing?

In your writing, you will often refer to other people's works. These could be books, laws, social media posts, AI-generated content etc.

Referencing is when you add details about these works to your essay, so that your reader can find the sources themselves. These are details such as the author, the name of the source, and publishing information.

The way you add these details depends on the referencing style you are using. Law school assignments usually use the OSCOLA referencing style. However, always double-check your assessment details in your module handbook.

What is OSCOLA?

It's a referencing style made up of footnotes and a bibliography.

With footnotes, you add a numerical marker after referring to a source. This creates a field at the bottom of the same page where you add the source details. For example:


A bibliography comes at the end of your essay. It is a list of all the references you have used. For example:

Some assignments may just ask for footnotes and not a bibliography. Check the requirements in your module handbook!

Further resources

How do I reference using OSCOLA?

This interactive tutorial from Cardiff University is a great place to start to learn how to use OSCOLA:

(Click the image to open the tutorial in a new tab)

Citing the Law: Referencing Using OSCOLA by Cardiff University is licenced under CC BY 4.0

Is there a guide to using OSCOLA?

If you want to check how to cite a specific kind of source in your work, the University recommends the Cite Them Right guide to OSCOLA:

(click the image to open the guide in a new tab)

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 edit some records (e.g. add abbreviations for journal titles). Reference management software is also unable to automatically cross reference footnotes. However, this is also a problem for other reference management tools.

  • Zotero is 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 create 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