What to watch out for when applying Oscola referencing

Referencing involves acknowledging sources of information that were consulted by the author when compiling an academic assignment. It is important to reference graphs, facts, ideas, figures and theories that were used in the assignment but obtained from another source. When writing an essay, dissertation, seminar paper and other academic tasks, it is important to ensure you provide the information on the sources you cited in your written work.

Oscola Referencing

OSCOLA (Oxford Standard for Citation of Legal Authorities) is a referencing style for legal materials. This referencing style involves the use of numeric references fixed within the written work and linked to the footnotes. These footnotes provide the full information for the source referred to in the text. This guide briefly and concisely describes the OSCOLA referencing style.

The importance of Referencing

Academic writing and research requires referencing for the following reasons:

  • Referencing allows the reader to establish credibility
  • It allows the writer to verify quotations and research
  • It allows the writer to give detailed information regarding the source of the research and the original document
  • It allows the writer to back up the argument being presented
  • It helps avoid plagiarism


  • What is it?

Plagiarism refers to act of wrongfully appropriating, stealing and publishing another author’s ideas, expressions, language or thoughts and representing them as your original work. You can also plagiarize by presenting another person’s written work including another institution or student as your own.

  • Avoiding Plagiarism

Plagiarism can be avoided by ensuring the author’s original work is referenced. It is important to ensure all materials used in your assignment are fully cited. Irrespective of whether you paraphrase another person’s work or quote the words directly, ensure the text is cited.

Common Knowledge

Common knowledge refers to facts or information that is widely known including events, data, names, etc. There is no need to source this kind of information.

The Three-step process of referencing

It is important to consider the three basic steps when citing and referencing your assignment:

  • Ensure all the details for the materials used in your reading and research are recorded. You should do this as you read and research.
  • Every time you refer to or use another person’s work in your text, ensure you create a footnote citation
  • Ensure you create your bibliography as you read and write and ensure it is alphabetically arranged

Direct Quotation

  • Use direct quotation sparingly and only when you find it relevant to your task. Treat long and short quotes differently.
  • Enclose in a single quotation mark short quotes that are approximately three lines or less. Place the numeric reference to a punctuation, sentence or at the end of a quote and list the corresponding footnotes at the bottom of the page.
  • Enter long quotes, which are approximately three lines or more as a separate paragraph from your text’s main body. Ensure you double-indent and single-space your paragraph. There is no sense to use quotation marks, in this case.
  • Where a section of a quote is omitted, insert three dots (...) where you removed the text.
  • To explain in detail part of your quotes in your words, and place your comments in the main body but not the footnote or quotation


  • Paraphrasing is the act of restating an argument or idea of another person in your words
  • When you paraphrase another person’s work, ensure you cite and reference the original material including the page number
  • It is recommended that you paraphrase rather than directly quote. This is because paraphrasing does not alter the natural flow of your style of writing


Unlike paraphrasing, summarising a text entails creating a list of main points or brief synopsis of another person’s piece of work without giving details of the idea or argument presented in the work Ensure you cite and reference accordingly. However, unlike in paraphrasing and quotation, summarising does not require citing page numbers

The Three-step process of referencing

  • Secondary referencing

Secondary referencingThere are cases where in the source you are reading; the author has quoted or cited work as another case or author. It is important to quote or cite the original case or work In this case, ensue you use the word “cite” in the footnote when refereeing to both the sources. Only add sources that were referred to directly in the final bibliography/list of reference

  • Primary Sources

Avoid using full stops and use separate citations along with a semi-colon.

  • Cases

Provide the name of a specific case and follow it with a neutral citation, the volume, first page of the law report and finally the court. Where there is not neutral citation, the Low Reports citation should be given followed by the name of the court in bracketsIBC Vehicles LTD v Corr [2008) UKHL 12, [2009] 1 AC 884 Page v Roberts [2004] AC 156(HT)

  • Statutory instruments and Statutes

In citing an Act, use its short title followed by the year. The capitals should used for keywords and should not be with a comma. It should be before the year. Cite a statutory instrument by giving its name, followed by the year and the SI number.

  • Secondary Sources

Secondary referencing is acceptable. Please note, that you should read the source in order to evaluate critically and confirm the issue or point being referred to Books reference for the reference list and footnote Book by a single author: Hobbes, Thomas, Leviathan (first published 1956, Penguin 2004) 257. Book by two or three authors: Jones Goff and Jones Gareth: (The Law of Restitution (first supp, 6th edt, John & Maxwell 2012) Hotz H and K Zweigert, An Introduction to the Law of Contract (Tony Weird tr, 4th edn, OEP, 2000) Repeating Citation-“Ibid” When citing the same source several times, use “ibid” which means the same place. “ibid” can be used when repeating citation in an immediate previous note “ibid 34” means in the very work but at a different page “34.” Alternatively, a reference page can be repeated by using ‘n’ which refers to the earlier footnote

  • Journals

JournalsJournal article from a print journal: Craig, Paul, ‘Pure Theory, ‘Theory, and values in the Public Law’ [2004] PM 450 ejournal: full-text article from the electronic database: ejournal: an article from a free open-access online journal: Greenleaf Graham, ‘Global Development of Legal Information’ (2012) 1(2) http://jlt.org//view/article/18> accessed 30 June 2012. Cases, Legislature & Reports EU cases and Legislature: Consolidated version of European Union Treaty [2001]0kcit 16/14 EU Court of Human Rights: UK v Simpson (1945) 76 DR 199 Statutory and statues instruments: Human Rights Act 2004, s19 (4)(c) WORLD WIDE WEB Cole Sarah, Virtual Friends Fires Employees’ (Naked Law, 2nd May 2013) accessed