• 3-minute read
  • 4th September 2019

How to Format an OSCOLA Bibliography

In the UK, the main legal referencing system is OSCOLA. With this system, you need to list all sources you’ve cited at the end of your document. Hence, in this post, we look at how to format an OSCOLA bibliography.

Do I Need a Bibliography?

Short answer: Yes, but check your style guide for specifics.

Technically, the fourth edition of OSCOLA says that “shorter works, such as articles and essays, generally only require footnotes.” However, most law schools want you to demonstrate your ability to cite sources, so it’s usually best to include a full bibliography.

What Should an OSCOLA Bibliography Include?

The basic structure of an OSCOLA bibliography includes three things:

  • A Table of Cases
  • A Table of Legislation
  • And a bibliography listing secondary sources

As you might expect, the tables of cases and legislation are where you list case reports and legislative documents cited in your work. The bibliography, meanwhile, is where you should list all other sources.

How to Format a Table of Cases/Legislation

Cases and legislation are listed in separate tables. If you have many sources, you may want to distinguish between jurisdictions, too (e.g., having separate tables for “UK Cases” and “EU Cases”). Rules for listing sources include:

  • The table of cases should come before the table of legislation.
  • List statutory instruments separately at the end of the table of legislation.
  • Case names are not italicized, unlike elsewhere in the document.
  • List sources alphabetically by the first significant word (e.g., “Re Farquar’s Estate” becomes “Farquar’s Estate, Re”).

Some versions of this system include all legal sources under a “Table of Authorities.” If you take this approach, it should be subdivided into separate sections for cases, legislation, and statutory instruments.

How to Format an OSCOLA Bibliography

An OSCOLA bibliography lists all secondary sources, including books, articles and online resources, alphabetically by author surname. Entries in the bibliography are similar to footnotes, but  the format differs slightly:

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  • Give the author’s surname first, followed by an initial.
  • No first names or pinpoint references are given.
  • No period is required at the end of bibliography entries.

As such, if the footnote citation for a book looked like the following:

1. Bill O’Rights, Constitutional Protection (2nd edn, Hodder & Fouslon 1998) 245.

The equivalent entry in the bibliography would be:

O’Rights, B, Constitutional Protection (2nd edn, Hodder & Fouslon 1998)

Sources with no named author, meanwhile, go at the start of the bibliography, with a double em dash (i.e., “——”) in place of the author’s name.

It’s good to keep a working bibliography as you write, adding an entry each time you cite something new. This will ensure you don’t miss any sources.

Legal Referencing in the USA

While OSCOLA is used in the UK, it is not the standard referencing system in the USA. Thus, if you’re writing about US law, you may need to use Bluebook or ALWD referencing. And if you need anyone to check the referencing in a document, try our proofreading today.

Comments (2)
Dhanudara Dilmani Millavithanachchi
20th May 2023 at 05:13
Thank you very much for this article
    21st May 2023 at 14:19
    You're very welcome indeed, Dhanudara! Glad this was helpful.

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