OSCOLA bibliography

OSCOLA basics: bibliographies

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Bibliography basics

Any long legal assignment, such as a dissertation or a thesis should contain a bibliography. This is a long list of all the sources you’ve read or researched and have referred to in the footnotes. OSCOLA style has some specific rules for bibliographies and in this blog post I’ll take a close look at some of the basics.

The bibliography comes at the end of the document, after the main text and any appendices. One question that often arises is whether the bibliography should be divided into different sections. There seems to be some flexibility (or inconsistency) about this. The OSCOLA guide indicates that if the list of sources is long then it is sensible to split them up into categories, for example, books, journal articles, websites. However, clients have come across some law schools that prefer the bibliography to be a long list, in alphabetical order, that places all the works of each author together. It’s best to check your law school’s specific requirements about this if possible, or look at some examples.


The format of each citation is the same as for footnotes, so you can copy and paste here, with the following exceptions:

1) The author’s name is reversed and shortened, so in the bibliography just cite the last name followed by the initial. For example, Liz Brown (footnotes) becomes Brown L, (Biblio)
2) There is NO FULL STOP at the end of a bibliography citation
3) List the works in alphabetical order of author’s last name
4) If the author is unknown – unattributed – list at the beginning of the bibliography with a double em dash in place of the name
5) If the author has more than one work list them in chronological order
6) Do not cite the page numbers referred to in the bibliography citation

Double em dashes

There are two places a double em dash is used in a bibliography. As mentioned above, if the author is unknown. The second place is where there is chronological list of several works, use a double em dash instead of repeating the author’s name. In Word 2013 the double em dash can be found by using ctrl+alt+numerical minus, just follow this short cut twice — —

Avoid repetition

Another tip is that there’s no need to cite the electronic version of a source if a hard copy of the material is available. So, if a book has been listed under ‘books’ but you have also referred to an online copy of it, there is no need to cite it twice.

Citing electronic works

Don’t forget that citation of electronic sources such as websites and blogs requires the accessed date. In OSCOLA style there’s no need to start the citation with ‘available at’, as is sometimes the case with other styles. Just put the web information in and at the end add ‘accessed’ plus the date. The date format is: day/month/year eg 17 April 2017

There is more detail in the 4th edition OSCOLA guidelines, but hopefully this overview demonstrates that compiling a bibliography is not as complicated as it may first appear.

OSCOLA bibliography
Compiling a bibliography