Books in OSCOLA

Citing books in OSCOLA style

First question: what is a book? You might think that seems a little obvious, but in OSCOLA terms a book is any publication that has an ISBN number. This is an International Standard Book Number, a ten or thirteen digit number that identifies a specific book. ISBN numbers have been in use since the 1970s and most books carry one, even ebooks. You might also come across some publications with an ISBN, like government documents and materials from NGOs and the like.

When using the OSCOLA citation style there are basically four types of books to consider: authored books, edited or translated books, contributions to edited books ­– chapters in a book written or compiled by someone else – and electronic books. The basic citation layout is fairly simple. First, the author details, second, the title in italics, and finally, everything else, all the publication information, is in brackets. Remember, there’s two important differences in the layout of a book citation between bibliographies and footnotes. First, let’s look at books in footnotes.

Authored books

Citing a book written by one or more authors is simple. Start by citing the author(s)’ full name. The first or Christian name comes first followed by their last name, also known as family or surname. If there is more than one author join their names with ‘and’. More than two, then you only need to cite the first three authors and then write ‘and others’ (not et al.). Next, there’s a comma. This is the only comma used in a simple book citation. Write the book’s title in italics. Then, all the publishing information goes in round brackets, with the date last. You just need the publisher’s name, not the city or country. If there is more than one edition of the book, then the edition number is placed first in the brackets, like this: (third edn, Publishing House 2021). Note that there’s no full stop after the abbreviation of edition to edn, and there’s a comma after this too. Finish with a full stop. Here’s an example:

Example:  Tom Bingham, The Rule of Law (Penguin 2011).

Contributions to Edited books

Citing a chapter or section of a book that is made up of chapters written by several different authors is a little bit more complicated. Start with the chapter author(s)’ first name and last name and a comma just like before. Then the ‘title goes in single quotes like this’. There’s no full stop or comma after the title, just write ‘in’ in small letters followed by the editor(s)’ names, following the first name last name style. Add (ed) or (eds) in brackets after the names and a comma. Then, write the book title in italics and the publishing information just the same as an authored book. Finish up with a full stop.  

Example: Scott J Shapiro, ‘The Difference That Rules Make’ in Brian Bix (ed), Analyzing Law: New Essays in Legal Theory (Clarendon Press 1998).

Edited and translated books

You might come across an old title published many years ago that has been edited more recently to bring it up to date. Here, you need to cite the original author’s name and the title just as you would an authored book and add the editor’s details at the start of the publishing details. So, within the round brackets, start with the editor’s first name and last name, add the abbreviation ‘ed’ followed by a comma and then continue with the rest of the publisher’s details. Similarly, if you’re quoting a book that has been translated from another language, put the translator’s details in the same place as the editor’s details, and add the abbreviation ‘tr’.

Example: Glanville Williams, Learning the Law (ATH Smith ed, 16th edn, Sweet & Maxwell 2016).

Electronic books

It’s handy to know that you only need to cite an electronic source if it is not available in hard copy. Otherwise just cite the book as the examples above. So, if the book is only available online, then in addition to the usual citation information you need write the website location in angled brackets followed by the accessed date. This is the correct format:

<http://www. website url details in angled brackets .com> accessed 19 June 2017.

Books in Bibliographies

There are two big differences when listing books in a bibliography rather than citing them in footnotes. The first thing you need to do is to swap round the order of the author’s names. So, in a bibliography the last name is listed first. This helps to get the bibliography into alphabetical order. Then, the first name is reduced to just a letter. From the example above, Glanville Williams would become Williams G. The rest of the layout is the same as footnotes, except there is no full stop at the end.


  • Remember: in a bibliography the author details are styled differently to footnotes
  • Bibliography citation does not have a full stop at the end
  • Book title in always italics
  • All other titles eg the chapter titles in single quote marks
  • Capitalise the first letter of major words in the title (not words such as and, for, of)
  • No need to cite the electronic version of a book available in hard copy, even if you have read it online