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Information to help you carry out legal research

Citing references

When you produce a piece of academic writing (course work assignment, dissertation, thesis, journal article or monograph), you draw information from a wide range of sources. These sources must be acknowledged by citing them in the text and listing them in a list of references at the end of your work. The reference should include the details needed for your reader to find the source you have used.

Basic details needed include:

  • originator - author, producer organisation
  • title
  • publication details
    • books - place of publication, publisher, date
    • journal articles - journal title, volume, year (date), page numbers
    • web sites - URL, date, access date

Some sources may also require information about the edition or series, or specialised information such as the scale of a map.

If you fail to do this, you may be accused of plagiarism, the academic offence of taking someone else's ideas and passing them off as one's own.

Reference styles

There are many different reference styles which determine the format in which these basic details are displayed. Journals, universities and professional bodies have all created reference styles. In the Law Department you are likely to use the OSCOLA style, developed at the University of Oxford for the accurate citation of legal materials.  You can access the OSCOLA guide and FAQs online (including guidance on secondary referencing) to help you with your citations.

It is very important to be consistent in your use of a style.  The use of EndNote bibliographic/reference software available in PC labs and Library PCs or over the internet as EndNote online will help you to create consistent citations and bibliographies.