OSCOLA journal articles

OSCOLA basics: journal articles

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If you’re writing a law assignment then there’s little doubt that, at some point, you’ll need to make reference to some previous research or cite a quotation from a legal journal. The citation style is quite simple, but remember that it is different to the citation of a book and most important, no italics are used in the citation of journal articles.

Basic details

The citation should enable the reader to locate the first page of the article in the series of journals for the cited year. In order to formulate the citation you need: the year of publication, the volume number if there is a separate volume number, and the issue number if the page numbering begins at 1 in each issue (otherwise it would not be possible to determine in which issue the page number of the article was located).

Author last name | author first name | comma | ‘journal title in single quote marks’ | (year in brackets) | journal reference information | first page number | full stop for footnotes

Round or square brackets?

The rules here are not dissimilar to the rules for case law report citation. If the volume can be identified by the year and there is no separate volume number, then place the year in square brackets. Otherwise, if there is a volume number, place the year in round brackets. This is often confusing, but some examples will explain. The well-known journal Public Law has no separate volume numbers, so a citation would look like this:

Liz Brown, ‘Mastering OSCOLA Citation style’ [2017] PL 000

Whereas, the equally prestigious Modern Law Review does, so an article that appeared in say the third issue of 2017 would be cited as follows:

Liz Brown, ‘Mastering OSCOLA Citation style’ (2017) 3 MLR 000

If the journal utilised issue numbers then the citation element would look like this:

Liz Brown, ‘Mastering OSCOLA Citation style’ (2017) 3(1) XXX 000

Close-up the bracket around the issue number to the volume number, ie don’t leave a space between them.


Most well-known journals have equally well-known abbreviations, and OSCOLA recommends that these are used wherever possible. The University of Cardiff has a prize-winning database that will give you the correct abbreviation of hundreds of different journals in nearly 300 jurisdictions so check there if you are stuck.

Online journals

Nowadays, many journals are only published online. Perhaps not surprising given the huge number of them. The layout of the basic information is the same for print and online journals, but for the latter you’ll need to add the website URL in angled brackets and the date you last accessed the article. Remember, you just need to add ‘accessed’ – small case and the date in the plain numbers day/month/year format.

[2017] XYZ 000 www.lizbrownediting.com> accessed 1 January 2017

OSCOLA journal articles
Citing journal articles

I hope this overview of OSCOLA citations of journal articles is useful. Please contact me if you have any legal assignment proofreading questions or you’d like to book your summer dissertation proofreading slot.