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Oscola Bibliography Reference Guide

What is OSCOLA referencing?

OSCOLA is the abbreviated name for Oxford Standard for the Citation of Legal Authorities. It’s the style many students use for referencing authorities, legislation and other legal materials. It is widely used in law schools and by journal and book publishers both in the UK and abroad.

The fourth edition of OSCOLA is available to purchase in book stores and online, with a downloadable reference guide available from the University of Oxford, Faculty of Law website.

How to OSCOLA reference

OSCOLA invites you to follow two “golden rules” when citing legal authorities. The first is consistency and the second is consideration for the reader. Legal writing is considered more persuasive when you refer to legal matters in a clear, consistent and familiar way. An integral part of this is having an easy way of identifying your sources.

OSCOLA does not use endnotes or in-text citations. Instead, all citations appear as footnotes. Longer works such as books and theses also include citations in tables of cases and legislation, as well as bibliographies.

Cite This For Me’s OSCOLA citation generator takes the hassle out of law referencing by providing you with the Oxford standard for the citation of legal authorities within seconds. Simply use the Cite This For Me mobile app or online tool and have the whole thing done for you quickly, accurately and consistently.

OSCOLA referencing example

Footnote example:

Stella Cottrell, The Study Skills Handbook (Palgrave Macmillan 2013).

Bibliography example:

Cottrell S, The Study Skills Handbook (Palgrave Macmillan 2013)

In April 2014, the European Case Law Identifier (ECLI) was introduced to facilitate easier location and citation of EU case law. The Court of Justice adopted this system and has assigned an ECLI to all decisions made by the EU courts since 1954. Member States are considering whether to adopt the new numbering.

This is an example of an ECLI:


EU indicates the decision was delivered by an EU Court or Tribunal

C indicates the decision was delivered  by the Court of Justice (T would indicate the General Court, F would indicate the Civil Service Tribunal)

2014 is the year the decision was delivered

317 indicates it was the 317th ECLI attributed in respect of that year.

Until the 5th edition of OSCOLA is published, guidance on using the ECLI is as follows. Insert an ECLI after the case name and before the report citation, in the same way as neutral citations are used in cases from the UK High Courts. If there is no report citation, or the case is unreported, use the ECLI on its own.

Examples of how to cite the ECLI in the OSCOLA style

Case C-176/03 Commission v Council EU:C:2005:542, [2005] ECR I-7879

Case C-542/09 Commission v the Netherlands EU:C:2012:346