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Bluebook citation quick guide


Legal citation is the approach by which judges, professors, law students, and lawyers refer to primary and secondary sources cited by them when drafting judicial opinions, law review articles, law school assignments, legal memoranda, or court documents. As men of law rely upon a great number of various sources, legal citation also covers the usage of signals that present citations and explain the citation's purpose to readers, and explanatory parentheticals that give further details concerning a source's relevance to the proposition of an author.

Mastering legal citation takes strict attention to details, practice, and patience. It implies coping with the legal citation profession-wide standards (try to find The Bluebook format example to familiarize yourself with the given standards), which are started in The Bluebook published by the Yale Law Journal and the Harvard, Columbia, and University of Pennsylvania Law Reviews. At first, The Bluebook was a concise publication designed in order to review the common citation forms and abbreviations. Nowadays, it is not concise anymore and contains 511 pages instead of 26 published in 1926. Such diversity of rules and citation forms has made The Bluebook quite difficult to apply.

Therefore, we have created the given short Bluebook style guide to help new law students familiarize themselves with the confusing and massive array of seldom rules, abbreviations, and citation forms. When dealing with the Bluebook guide, it is necessary to comprehend its purpose and the structure, and once you are concentrated on these two factors, applying the format turns out to be much easier.

As to the purpose, it implies:

  1. a source identification;
  2. where to find the source.

Usually, citation forms’ system has two functions: providing the general information regarding references to readers and offering an opportunity to readers to find this or that reference in case he/she decides to look it up. Such purpose is vital in the legal practice. If this purpose helps us define and locate sources, it is obvious that the Bluebook format should be general and standard. For instance, every published federal or state case has the following format: case name; volume number; a particular source where the case is published; page number; the court that has reviewed the case; year. This structure may look like:

  • Costa v. Boston Red Sox, 809 N.E. 2 d 1090 (Mass. App. Ct. 2004)

Unlike the purpose, the Bluebook structure is divided into four main parts:

  1. “blue pages” that provide citation format and typeface for legal memoranda and court documents (for non-law, review-related, and non-academic purposes);
  2. “white pages” that provide citation format and typeface for law review footnotes (academic purposes);
  3. foreign and domestic jurisdiction pages that include important information related to statutory court abbreviations for specific jurisdictions and citation preferences;
  4. general abbreviation pages.

If you want to have a closer look at the usage of these parts in practice and if you have a desire to look up an “example paper written Bluebook format," it is a good idea to look through one of the samples available on the web.

Legal Memoranda and Court Documents vs. Law Review Footnotes

There are differences in typeface conventions between legal memoranda and court documents (non-academic citation), and law review footnotes (academic citation). Generally, the given differences may be described as the White Pages vs. Blue Pages because the White pages represent The Bluebook citation style peculiar to law review footnotes, while the Blue Pages include citation formats used in legal memoranda and court documents.

The key distinction between citing according to the White and Blue Pages is the typeface. It means using the regular Roman type, large and small capitals, underlining, and italics. You may apply the White Pages when citing in legal memoranda and court documents so long as you deal with the right typeface.

Bluebook Citation Style Short Guide

It takes practice to learn the rules of any citation method. More often than not, it is much easier to read a citation than to cite. Whether you are learning how to cite a textbook in Bluebook format or checking if you have cited any other source correctly, it is important to know the basics. Hence, it is crucial to know that the legal citation consists of three elements: signal, source, and parenthetical information.

For instance: See Mass. Bd. Of Ret. v. Murgia, 427 U. S. 307(1976) (per curiam)

Keep in mind these three essential components when drafting a citation. The Bluebook style guide comprises citations thoroughly in a later section. In case you have any questions regarding citations, you need to contact your professor or librarian on duty.

Bluebook Format for Research Papers

At some point in your academic life, you are expected to compose a research paper on Legal Studies. To do this correctly, you will have to start from thesis statement writing.

First and foremost, it is necessary to decide on a topic – in other words, come up with a thesis statement that must explain the topic you are working on. When formulating your thesis statement, focus on a general topic (i.e. the Third Amendment). After that, narrow down the topic (i.e. restrictions on the quartering of soldiers), and make it more specific further (i.e. the American Revolutionary War).

The title/topic of your work has to contain no more than twelve words and provide readers with a clear idea of your paper’s nature. It does not have to be way too generic. Even if your topic is controversial, the research paper purpose is to critically analyze the relevant literature.

When it comes to the research, you should firstly define all relevant issues concerning your thesis statement in order to study the topic thoroughly. Once you are done, research can begin. There is a great number of legal databases, which can help you choose the sources. For example, the Online Library provides a Legal Studies Portal, which offers a possibility to access a few other research databases and more than 1,000 legal periodicals.

LexisNexis and Westlaw are thought out to be the most common databases in the legal profession. LexisNexis gives access to more than 10,000 legal, business, and news sources. Other legal databases in the library include JSTOR and Loislaw.

The best research unites primary (administrative agency regulations/materials, cases, statutes (legislative laws and the U.S. Constitution)) and secondary sources (practice material, treatises, legal periodicals, and encyclopedia). Think about keywords, which directly refer to your issue (i.e. restrictions on the quartering of soldiers, Third Amendment, etc.) and any related words together with synonyms (for instance, the word "stop" may also mean "terminate," "check," and "halt"). Very often, it is quite helpful to apply a legal thesaurus and dictionary when devising your search. In order to find out how to cite a research paper in Bluebook form, it is worthy to read all the following information first.

Having examined all information thoroughly, you have to start formulating an outline that is needed to organize your thoughts logically. Your paper should consist of five sections:

  • Title page in Bluebook format
  • Introductory paragraph
  • Findings from secondary or primary sources
  • Analysis of a paper
  • Conclusion

You may either insert the direct quotes from the source into your paper or paraphrase the sentences taken from the source; just do not forget about an appropriate Bluebook citation of academic paper or papers you use. As a rule, it is necessary to reduce the number of direct quotations to a minimum. The preferred method is summing up or paraphrasing information from sources, which implies putting down the information in your own words. Nevertheless, it is necessary to take into account that you SHOULD cite all sources used!

Bluebook Paper Formatting

According to the Legal Studies program, you should use 12 pt. Times New Roman font alongside with one-inch margins. Any punctuation within the citation, speeches and publications, titles of articles, case names, explanatory phrases, Latin legal phrases, and introductory signals have to be underlined or italicized. You need to use in-text citations for all memoranda and legal briefs as contrasted with footnotes or endnotes.


According to the Bluebook Style, all numbers between zero and ninety-nine need to be spelled out in footnotes and text. Those numbers, which start a sentence, should be spelled out despite their numeric importance.

Block Quotations

Quotations of fifty or more words are always intended left and right, single-spaced, without quotation marks, and justified. A citation that follows a block quotation should not begin at the left margin but be intended, double-spaced, and placed below the blockquote.

Headers and Page Numbers

All headers must be flush left on every page starting from the second page of the paper and capitalized. All page numbers must be flush top right starting from page two. To assure yourself that you format the paper correctly, try finding a sample essay with Bluebook format online.


Names of specific people, things, or places should always be capitalized. While referring to the U.S. Supreme Court, the word "Court" has to be capitalized. In the same way, when referencing the full name of any court, be sure that you have capitalized it (i.e. The Supreme Court of Massachusetts).


The Bluebook essay format is notable for:

  1. indicating omissions in a sentence or paragraph by periods “….”
  2. bracketing letters, which are changed to either upper or lower periods
  3. requiring that commas and periods have to be put inside of quotation marks.

How to Cite in Bluebook Format?

Cases, which are placed in various print reporters, are always cited the same, whether you look for them online or in the actual book. The citation elements are mentioned below (all comas are placed correctly).

Case number, volume number print reporter abbreviated name
page number, pin cite court name and decision year.

Reporters are sets of books that consist of printed cases from a collection of jurisdictions. As usual, all cases are identified by the reporter’s volume number, abbreviation, and the number of page(s). In this way, 15 F. 3d 556 makes reference to a certain case that starts on page 556 of volume 15 of the Federal Reporter 3d Series (that gathers cases from the federal circuit courts of appeals).

Federal and regional reporters together with their abbreviations are depicted below in two separate tables.

Federal Reporters
Reporter Years Abbreviation

Supreme Court

Lawyer’s Edition (unofficial; published by Lexis)

Supreme Court Reporter (unofficial; published by West)

United States Reports (official reporter)

1790 – date

1882 – date

1790 – date

L. Ed., L. Ed. 2d

S. Ct.


Circuit Court

Federal Reporter

Federal Reporter 2d

Federal Reporter 3d

Federal Appendix (unpublished cases)

1891 – 1924

1924 – 1993

1993 – date

2001 – date


F. 2d

F. 3d

F. App’x

District Court

Federal Supplement

Federal Supplement 2d

Federal Rules Decisions

West’s Bankruptcy Reporter

1932 – 1998

1998 – date

1938 – date

1979 – date

F. Supp.

F. Supp. 2d



Regional Reporters
Reporter Abbreviation States Covered


So., So. 2d


South Eastern

S. E., S. E. 2d


South Western

S. W., S. W. 2d



P., P. 2d, P. 3d


North Western

N. W., N. W. 2d


North Eastern

N. E., N. E. 2d



A., A. 2d


Case Name

According to The Bluebook citation guide, case names are underlined in legal memoranda and court documents. The example mentioned below is appointed for case names in law review footnotes' citations. Dots demonstrate where space must be applied.

Acme ●Mkts., ●Inc. ●v. ●Fed. ●Armored ●Express, ●Inc., ●[citation].

Facts about Case Citation

Facts about case citation are placed after the case names. Here, abbreviations are quite important too, especially for the court and relevant reporter. The example below is from the District of Massachusetts.

112 ● F. ● Supp. 2d ● 89 ● (D. ● Mass. ● 2000)

Explanation of Citation

2000 – Year the particular case was decided

D. Mass – Court name

89 – Page on which the case starts

F. Supp. 2d – Reporter where the case is published

112 – Volume Number

Unpublished Cases

Unpublished cases are those that do not appear in print reporters. According to The Bluebook citation paper guidelines, these cases are cited as they emerge in LexisNexis and Westlaw.

LexisNexis Example

Del. ● Express ● Shuttle, ● Inc. ● v. ●

Older, ● No. ● 19596, ● 2002 ● Del. ● Ch. ●

LEXIS ● 124, ● at ● * 16 ● (Del. ● Ch. ● Oct. ●, 23, ● 2002).

Explanation of Citation

Oct. 23, 2002 – Decision Date

Del. Ch. – Court Name

*16 – Pin Cite

2002 Del. Ch. LEXIS 124 – LexisNexis Identifier

No. 19596 – Docket Number

Westlaw Example

Gonzales – Doldan ● v. ● ABPS, ● No. ● 97 – CV –

0902E, ● 1998 ● WL ● 328642, ● at ● * 1 ●

(W.D.N.Y. ● June ● 16, ● 1998) .

Explanation of Citation

June 16, 1998 – Decision Date

W.D.N.Y – Court Name

*1 – Pin Cite

1998 WL 328642 – Westlaw Identifier

No. 97 – CV – 0902E – Docket Number

For more information concerning unpublished cases, it is worthy to address to The Bluebook citation guide online.

Citing Statutes: Bluebook Format Example

Citing statutes may become a difficult task as formats differ between state and federal types, and from state to state. Nevertheless, when citing a specific section, you will need:

  • the title and subject area
  • the statutory compilation – the place where the section has been found
  • the section number
  • the year of code.

By contrast, session laws should consist of

  • legislation name
  • chapter of law/public law/or other
  • particular bond volume.

You should always check examples of references in Bluebook format when it comes to citing a certain jurisdiction’s statutes.

Year of the Code

The usage of a proper year when citing to a code part is a tricky assignment for the majority of new law students. The next pointers will ease this process.

If you want to find the correct year, pay attention to such points as the book spine, the title and copyright pages.

Non-academic citation examples of citing may be found in any Bluebook format sample paper. The first citation illustrates both the main volume and supplement; the second one illustrates only the supplement.

Mass. ● Gen. ● Laws ● ch.● 5, ● § ● 1 ● (2010 ●& ● Supp. ● 2011) .

16 ● U.S.C. ● § ● 3645 (d) (2) ● (Supp. ● 2010) .

Federal Statutes

Always cite to U.S.C. for federal code sections. Below there are examples, which will tell you how to cite to a federal code section.

When citing to an individual code section:

28 ● U.S.C. ● § ● 1367 ● (2006) .

When citing to an entire statute:

Securities ● Act ● of ●1933, ● 15 ● U. S. C. ● §§ ● 77a-77aa ● (2006) .

State Statutes

Court Documents:

Mass. ● Gen. ● Laws ● ch. ● x, ● § ● x ● (<year>) .

Law Review Documents:

MASS. ● GEN. ● LAWS ● ch. ● x, ● § x ● (<year>) .

Citing Secondary Sources: Bluebook Citation Practice Guide

Secondary sources represent information about the law rather than the law itself. Such sources include dictionaries, books, single volume monographs, websites, journal articles, practice guides, and legal encyclopedias.


Everybody knows that dictionaries are great sources of reliable explanations and definitions. Cite them according to the Bluebook format citation rules, keeping in mind the format differences between court documents and legal memoranda, and law review footnotes.

Court Documents:

Random ● House ● College ● Dictionary ● 643 ● (8th ● ed. ● 1984) .

Law Review Footnotes:

RANDOM ● HOUSE ● COLLEGE ● DICTIONARY ● 643 (8th ● ed. ● 1984) .

Legal Encyclopedias

Court Documents:

35A ● C. J. S. ● Federal ● Civil ● Procedure ● § ● 318 ● (2003) .

Law Review Footnotes:

35A C. J. S. Federal ● Civil ● Procedure ● § ● 318 ● (2003) .

Periodicals and Journals

Consecutively Paginated:

Samuel ● D. ● Warren ● & ● Louis ● D. ● Brandeis, ● The ● Right ● to Privacy, ● 4 ● HARV. ● L. ● REV. ● 193 ● (1890) .

Non-Consecutively Paginated:

Michael ●Scherer, ●Taking ● it ● to ● the ● Streets, ●TIME, ●Oct. ●24, ●2011, ● at 20 .

Usually, newspapers are cited like non-consecutively paginated journals.

Holland ● Cotter, ● A ● Cosmopolitan ●Trove ● of ● Exotic ● Beauty, ●N. Y. ● TIMES, ● Oct. ● 28, ● 2011, ●at ● C23 .

As for the Bluebook format for internet articles, change small and large caps to regular roman type and italics to underlining when citing in legal memoranda and court documents.

Internet Sources

As a rule, The Bluebook discourages electronic sources citations. However, we know that the Internet comprises a great number of reliable legal sources and materials. In case you need to learn how to cite websites in Bluebook format, it will be helpful to consult the Blue Pages.

At last, the key points to remember when being engaged in the legal citation are as follows:

  • Are your citations to use in legal memoranda or court documents, or law review footnotes? Find out which one exactly and cite it accordingly.
  • In order to use a proper signal, assume yourself that you know why you are citing to a certain source.
  • Remember that The Bluebook can almost always provide you with a correct abbreviation, should it be the name of a journal, the name of the reporter, case name, court name, etc.
  • When you cite a website in Bluebook format, try to look for an example in the Bluebook guide to copy from. It can turn out to be easier than reading and applying a rule.
  • If you need assistance or support, always ask questions.

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