What is Oscola referencing?

What is Oscola referencing? Is there any difference in this referencing when compared to oxford referencing?

What is Oscola Referencing?

The Oscola or the Oxford Standard for Citation of Legal Authorities, style of referencing is that numeric format of referencing which is used and preferred by the academic writers belonging to the Bristol Institute of Legal Practice and the British Law School. Thus, designed mainly to be used by the Oxford University students, the Oscola referencing method today is the common and required format for the Law practitioners and the law students both in Britain and outside. In other words, Oscola is basically a guide to the legal citations used by law academic writers while writing an academic or research paper in the same field. It stands for consistency and easy understanding of the readers of the complicated matters of the legal world and is primarily based on the common UK legal citation practices.

Features of Oscola referencing

There are indeed quite a few salient features of the Oscola referencing style which are today also commonly called the footnote style referencing as it generally avoids the in text citations, punctuations or the end notes. Some of these features are as follows:

  • While citing or referring to some other work, include the footnote in the form of a small subscript number like eg^2 which can be linked to the particular cited sentence with the same subscript number.
  • While using a reference for the first time, complete detail of the source is to be provided.
  • In the bibliography, the information or the referred item if referred in a number of pages, is to be cited as a whole and not as specific or individual pages.
  • An Oscola bibliography usually contains three sections, namely –

1. Table of Cases

2. Table of Legislation and

3. Bibliography (it includes mainly the secondary sources like books, journals newspapers, websites etc.)

  • Full stops are not to be used in case of the abbreviations
  • The citations are all separated by semi colons
  • Proper forms of Italics and punctuations are necessary, if at all to be used, in the particular cases and places.

Advantages and uses of the Oscola referencing style

The Oscola style is important and useful for the legal field due to several reasons. Some of the basic reasons are as follows:

  • Since legal matters themselves are sometimes rather complicated, it is necessary for them to understand a subject without any difficulty and fast. The Oscola referencing actually does just that. It helps in a clear and fast understanding of the whole subject matter.
  • As the Oscola style helps in referring the complicated legal matters in a simplified and familiar way, it allows easy identification and tracking down of the academic writer’s referred source.
  • It is a consistent format and does not allow or provide much scope for variation and diversion. As a result, it is quite easy, for both the readers and the writers, to follow and comprehend.
  • The Oscola referencing, due to its familiarity and easy comprehensiveness, facilitates the reader to follow an argument properly and thus helps in the persuasion and reinforcement of the academic writer’s point, which makes the whole thing far easier for the reader.

Few examples of Oscola referencing

The Oscola referencing style does not demand much effort on the part of the readers for comprehension. Thus, it is quite well known for its simple methods, consistency, and familiarity and, of course, easy usage. However, the Oscola referencing is divided into the following two divisions:

  • The Primary Legal Source
  • The Secondary Legal Source

These divisions are all made according to the nature of the source of the references and citations. While the Primary legal source includes law reports, cases, legislations from the EU and UK, the Secondary legal source includes the journals, books, articles, policy statements, websites etc. Some good examples would help in a better understanding of the Oscola referencing. These examples are as follows:

Primary Sources:

  • For referencing a particular case, it is important to mention the name of the case, the neutral citation and the volume with the first page of the law report citation. The court name also needs to be mentioned.

E.g.: R (Roberts) v Parole Board [2004] EWCA Civ 1031, [2005] QB 410

  • The paragraph numbers are required to be mentioned in third brackets or square brackets, as they are also called, while pinpointing at the end of a citation with the court.

E.g.: Bunt v Tilley [2006] EWHC 407 (QB), [2006] 3 All ER 336 [1]–[37]

  • In case of statutes and statutory instruments citations, the decree along with the order is to be mentioned in the reference.

E.g.: Penalties for Disorderly Behaviour (Amendment of Minimum Age) Order 2004, SI 2004/3166

  • While making an EU legislation reference or case citation, the common Oscola norm is to give the year of the decree and the case details.

Eg: Council Regulation (EC) 139/2004 on the control of concentrations between undertakings (EC Merger Regulation) [2004] OJ L24/1, art 5, Case C–176/03 Commission v Council [2005]

Secondary Sources:

  • The secondary source referencing includes mentioning the author’s name with the name and year of publication of the work. The page numbers are to be mentioned at the end of the citations following the brackets.

Eg: Gareth Jones, Goff and Jones: The Law of Restitution(1st supp, 7th edn, Sweet & Maxwell 2009)

  • For referencing from the Journals and the articles, for pinpointing, it is necessary to put comma between the first page of that article and the page pinpointed.

Eg: JAG Griffith, ‘The Common Law and the Political Constitution’ (2001) 117 LQR 42, 64

Difference between Oscola and Oxford referencing

The differences between the Oxford style of referencing and the Oscola method are quite manifold. This is because the purpose of the two methods is inherently different and thus their target readers and functions are also a bit separate from each other. However, the basic principal of the referencing and citation style remains true for both – easy understanding of the readers. While the Oxford lays stress on the proper punctuations and in text citations with accurate date and year of publication of work, the Oscola avoids the uses of punctuations in most of the cases and prefers footnotes instead of the instant in text references.