How do I cite court decisions or case law?


This question came to me from students in Psychology 3313, but I’ve tried to make my answers as general as possible! – HC

Citing legal information can feel like a really un-fun treasure hunt: our APA citation guide, for example, refers you to the Publication Manual, which refers you to Appendix 7.1 which refers to you to the Bluebook. Then when you look at the Bluebook the examples are American. Annoying.

So, first thing’s first:

  1. What country is your court decision/case from? If it’s American use the Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation. If it’s Canadian, use the Canadian Guide to Uniform Legal Citation instead. Either way, these resources are located in the library’s reference section.  If it’s from outside Canada or the US I would suggest asking a librarian or emailing the Law Library’s reference desk.
  2. Build your citation. If you find the books difficult to understand (e.g. if you’re inexperienced with legal terminology, like me), I recommend checking out one of the following helpful resources for actually creating your citation. These guides are helpful as they break down the instructions in the Canadian Guide and the Bluebook.

Canadian guides:

    1. Queen’s University Library – Guide to Canadian Legal Citation
    2. Carlton University Library – Citing Legal Sources (see p. 2 “Citing Jurisprudence”)

American guides:

    1. Cornell University – Introduction to Basic Legal Citation (browse menu on the left)
    2. Georgetown – Citing Cases

If you’d like some additional assistance from a librarian, feel free to contact the Law Library (or come visit us, of course!)

Where can I get help with citing and formatting my paper in APA?


Last updated November 17, 2014. This post now includes sites for formatting your paper!

Citation and Referencing

  • The ultimate guide is the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed.).  Not only does it provide citation help, but it also outlines how you should organize and format your assignments.
  • The library has put together a cheat-sheet for the most common types of references (in all of the formats that your professors require, not just APA).  You can find it on our website at: http://brescia.uwo.ca/library/research/citation-guides/
  • If you can’t find the precise example you need, make sure to check the APA Style blog, located at: http://blog.apastyle.org/.  Here’s what the blog is all about, from their own words: “The APA Style Blog is the official companion to the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, Sixth Edition. It’s run by a group of experts who work with APA Style every day.”   Some of the helpful posts include: Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube!
  • The OWL (Online Writing Lab) at Purdue is the next best choice (for APA and many other styles)
  • Further resources about learning APA style, such as tutorials, are available on their website: http://www.apastyle.org/index.aspx.

Formatting your paper

  • Again, the Publication Manual is the first place to look
  • The APA Style Blog also helps with formatting your papers, including those running headers
  • The OWL (Online Writing Lab) at Purdue is an awesome site for all things APA and even includes sample papers! Yay!

There are a lot of other citation resources available to you, so make sure to use a critical eye before trusting them.  When in doubt, only go with the APA-affiliated resources since they’re the experts.  The Beryl Ivey Library takes care when creating the Citation Guides for our students, but even we’re known to make mistakes!

How do you cite a website?


Obviously the exact formatting of citations depends on the style you’ve been asked to use (i.e. APA, MLA, Uniform/ICMJE Requirements, etc).  You won’t need all of the information below for every single citation style. But in general you need to try to find the same type of information you would in a print resource.

  1. Author
    • Look for whoever wrote the page.  If it’s not listed at the bottom or the top of the page/article that you’re using, look on the “contact us” page or “about us” page of the website.
    • You may not find an individual author.  This is okay (if you feel that the site is reputable and reliable).  In most citation styles, you would just skip this information.
    • The organization responsible for providing the website is often the author – especially when it’s a government site, or a major organization like the American Psychological Association or the Canadian Diabetes Association.
  2. Title
    • You will likely need to find two titles: the name of the webpage you’re using, and the name of the  overall website that page falls under.  My example below demonstrates this: the webpage name is “Bipolar disorder – what are the symptoms?” while the website name is Mind Your Mind.  I will need both of these pieces of information for my citation.
  3. Publisher
    • Often, this is just the name of the website – what you’re looking for is who produces or sponsors the site.
    • In a big organization, like the Heart and Stroke Foundation, the publisher is the Heart and Stroke Foundation.
    • Some not-for-profit organizations (and even some for-profit sites) will have a sponsor who pays for their site.   This information could be little, like an icon on the bottom of the page so look carefully!  [I’ve included an example from WebMD below so you can see what I mean.  In this case, the sponsor is NCI, but I only found that information by scrolling down the page].
    • If you can’t find a publisher or sponsor (i.e. if it’s an average person’s website rather than an organization’s) make sure to include “n.p.” in your citation where the publishing information should go (as in “no publisher”).
  4. Location of Publication

    • Not all citation styles require this information, and it’s often tricky to find.  Just try your best!
  5. Date of Publication
    • Normally this information is found at the bottom of the page, next to the words “last updated.”
    • If you see a website that has a date like “c2010”, that’s actually the copyright date, not the date of publication.  If this is the only date you can find, make sure to include the “c” in your citation.
    • If you can’t find a date of publication anywhere on the site and you still want to use it in your bibliography, most citation styles require you to say “n.d.” in your citation where the date should go (as in “no date”).  See my examples below so you know what I mean.
  6. Estimated Length or Number of Pages

    • If you are citing a PDF from a website, this part’s easy.  But for normal websites,  some citation styles require you to count the number of paragraphs on the page that you’re using.  Have fun!
  7. Accessed Date or Retrieved Date or Cited Date

    • Make sure to record the date that you looked at the website, in case the content is updated.
  8. URL
    • Some citation styles don’t require this anymore, when you look at their manual.  Make sure to check with your professor before skipping this information, though.

Examples:

APA

Author, A. A. (Date). Title of website. Retrieved from URL.

Kessy, S. S. A, & Urio, F. M. (2006). The contribution of microfinance institutions to poverty reduction in Tanzania. Retrieved from http://www.repoa.or.tz/documents_storage/Publications/Reports/06.3_Kessy_and_Urio.pdf

ICMJE Requirements (previously known as Uniform Requirements)

Title of website [Internet]. Location of site sponsor/publisher: Sponsor/Publisher; Copyright date [updated Date; cited Date]. Available from: URL.

Cancer-Pain.org [Internet]. New York: Association of Cancer Online Resources, Inc; c.2000-2010 [updated 2010 May 16; cited 2011 Oct 3]. Available from: http://www.cancer-pain.org.

MLA

Author, First Name. Title of Source. Publisher, Date, Location.

Eaves, Morris. The William Blake Archive. Lib. of Cong., 28 Sept. 2007, http://www.blakearchive.org/blake.