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Referencing - OSCOLA


Footnotes have 2 parts:

(1) a marker in the text (a number) to indicate where a source was used in your text

(2) at the end (or foot) of that same page, the citation to the source used in your text (the number in the text matches the number at the foot)


It's good academic practice not to cite any case, article or other source that you haven't read.7



7.  Steve Foster, Legal Writing Skills (5th edn, Pearson 2019).


It's good academic practice not to cite any case, article or other source that you haven't read (Foster, 2019).

How: Create footnotes in Word by first clicking in the text where you want to insert a footnote, then click on References, then Insert Footnote, or use the shortcut CTRL-ALT-F (view the brief tutorials below for a guide)

Where: The footnote can appear at the end of a sentence (after the full stop) or within the sentence, at the point where you mention anything needing a footnote.

When to add footnotes:

  • Statements of law: cite the relevant case or statutory provision
  • Direct quotation: cite the source from a book, article, case, or other material
  • Any fact or opinion that you use in your paper that is not your original thought

For more information on quotes, see p. 8 of the OSCOLA guide.

If you use your own words to express an idea that is specific to a particular writer (a judge in a case, an opinion in a book), cite that source even if you explain the idea in your own words.  But, if you have read several textbooks to get an overview of the topic and the same idea is expressed in each one, then you may not need a specific reference when expressing this idea in your own words, because information that is widely known may be considered "common knowledge".  

When in doubt, reference it.

Subsequent citations, cross-references

If you have already cited the source in a previous footnote, you can use a short form of citation for all later citations of that source.  In the subsequent footnotes, briefly identify the source and provide a cross reference, using round brackets, to the footnote where the full citation can be found.  If the subsequent citation is in the footnote immediately following the full citation, you can generally use ‘ibid’ instead.

Subsequent citations of cases: use a short form of the case name to identify the source.

Example: the student provides a citation to Austin v Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis in footnote 1.  In footnote 2, various judges' opinions are referenced, from the same case.  In footnote 7, the Austin case is referenced once again.

1.  [2009] UKHL 5, [2009] AC 564.

2.  ibid [34] (Lord Hope), [39] (Lord Scott), [43]–[47] (Lord Walker), [58]–[60] (Lord Neuberger).


7. Austin (n 1).

Subsequent citations of legislation: use abbreviations or other short forms.

2. Council Directive (EC) 93/104 concerning certain aspects of the organisation of working time [1993] OJ L307/18 (Working Time Directive).


40. Working Time Directive, art 2.


Subsequent citations of secondary sources: use the author’s or authors’ surname(s):

1.  Robert Stevens, Torts and Rights (OUP 2007).


26.  Stevens (n 1) 110.

27. ibid 271–78.

If there are several works by the same author, use the surname and the title of the work (or a short form of the title).

Note that it is also acceptable to give the full citation every time a source is cited.