Introduction to OSCOLA referencing

A brief introduction to OSCOLA referencing and some help to get you started.

What is OSCOLA referencing?

The Oxford Standard for the Citation of Legal Authorities (OSCOLA) is the preferred referencing style used by the Bristol Law School and the Bristol Institute of Legal Practice.

If you are a non-law student using legal materials, you may be required to use the UWE Harvard referencing standard. Please check with your personal tutor.

New to referencing?

If you're entirely new to referencing, read the introduction to referencing.

How OSCOLA works, in brief

Reference your sources of information in footnotes and a bibliography.


Example of footnotes

  • When citing another work in your text, insert a small superscript number (eg 1) to denote a footnote.
  • In the footnote at the bottom of the same page, insert the reference.
  • In your footnote reference, refer to a specific page - or range of pages - if appropriate (this is known as 'pinpointing').

Microsoft Word has an inbuilt utility for inserting footnotes:


Example 1 of a bibliography
Example 2 of a bibliography

  • At the end of your work (and before any appendices) include all your references in a full bibliography.
  • Your bibliography is a list of every source of information you have used in preparing your piece of work, including sources you have used for background reading but not necessarily quoted from or referred to directly in your work.
  • In your bibliography reference the information source as a whole, not specific pages.

Your bibliography should be laid out in three parts:

Your tutor may prefer that your tables of cases and legislation appear separately at the beginning of your work. Always check with your tutor which format you should follow.

Format references in the OSCOLA style

References in your footnotes and bibliography must be formatted in the OSCOLA style - eg, with correct use of italics, punctuation and brackets, and with all the required bibliographic information present and correctly ordered. 

The OSCOLA guides (4th edition) are published - for free - by the University of Oxford's Law Faculty. They contain the definitive and authoritative guidance on how to format your references in the OSCOLA style.

In addition, UWE Bristol has supplied some extra guidance on sources of information not covered by the OSCOLA guide.

Additional online help

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