citation of papers

OSCOLA basics: citing papers

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Citing papers in OSCOLA style

In the previous blog post I looked at the citation of UK Parliamentary proceedings using the OSCOLA referencing style. Another common source material is papers. These can be government papers, papers from consultation groups or conferences, and sometimes academic work such as theses.

The UK government publishes a wide range of papers and there is an excellent overview on the Parliament website. The most common types of paper that you may need to cite in a law essay are green papers, white papers and command papers. In terms of hierarchy, the green paper has the lowest status. It is a government publication outlining proposals, often for legislative change, and usually invites comments and discussion. A white paper has greater strength as it specifies government initiatives and proposals for legislation; it may not invite comments. A paper is known as a Command paper when it has been presented to Parliament. The term can include both green and white papers, plus reports of select committees, other state papers and reports. Command papers are allocated a numerical command reference number.

Green and White papers

Citation of a green or white paper published by a government department follows the layout below. Note that the title of the document is in italic.

Name of department | comma | title of report in italic | (in brackets: White/Green Paper, comma, paper (Cm) number, comma year) | page number | full stop

Command papers

Citation of a command paper follows virtually the same layout. Note that the abbreviation used for the term ‘command’ year will depends on year of publication, so check the guidelines 4th edn OSCOLA pg 40

Name of department | title of paper in italic | (command paper number and year in brackets)

Example: Cabinet Office, Your Right to Know, The government’s proposals for a Freedom of Information Act (Cm 3818, 1997).

Conference papers

Papers presented to conferences provide a rich source of reference material and you may wish to cite a particular academic paper or the report of conference proceedings. Make a note of as much information as possible about the conference, including its date and location. If you don’t have every one of the details and you can’t find them on the internet, then just cite as much detail as possible, as follows:

Author first name | author last name | comma | ‘title in single quote marks’ |(in round brackets: the name of the conference | comma | location ie city and country | comma | the conference dates in usual format) | full stop if footnotes


Sometimes you may have read another researcher’s unpublished work as part of your research. The citation style is again quite straightforward. Just keep the qualification and university information sufficiently brief to enable the work to be identified, there’s no need to cite the course title or department, and no italics:

Author first name | author last name | comma | ‘title of thesis in single quotes’ | (in round brackets: name of qualification ie Phd thesis | comma | Name of university year) | full stop if footnote

Example: Liz Brown, ‘OSCOLA basics for law students’ (PhD thesis, University of Life 2017).

*Now, there’s an idea!

citation of papers
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