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Referencing Tips

Student researching in the library

Challenging assignments are the norm in law school, and we can’t afford to be losing marks over something as simple as referencing. Every comma out of place could be costing you precious marks, so here are a few referencing tips to help you ensure that your footnotes are as flawless as your arguments…

Forget about attempting to read James Joyce’s Ulysses or Dostoyevsky’s Notes From Underground, the number one book on your reading list should be The Australian Guide to Legal Citation (AGLC). You can download a PDF version for free or purchase a hard copy for around $20. The AGLC is the cheapest book you’ll ever buy in law school and probably the only one you’ll be able to use in all your subjects.

The AGLC covers almost every source you could possibly use: cases, journal articles, encyclopedias, parliamentary debates, UN materials, international treaties, and more. If you’re ever confused about how to reference a source, you can chat to @AGLCTweets on Twitter.

If you take one thing from this article, it should be to reference as you go. I know that you’ve probably been told this a thousand times, but it’s a lifesaver! Referencing can be a tedious task especially at 1:30am but it’ll save you so much stress as the deadline draws closer, and eliminates the “I can’t remember/find the source” panic five minutes before submission.

You’ll often need to go back and check a source, so keeping track of where your information came from is really important. When you download articles for an assignment, be sure to include some source details in the file name, or paste the URL in the body of the file so that you can go back to the source later if you need to. If you’re using books, write the source details on any photocopies you make, and don’t remove any post-it notes from the book until your assignment is finished.

When you’re footnoting, write out the full citation each time and leave inserting “Ibid” and “Above n” to the very end. If you’re like me, you’re probably constantly cutting and pasting quotes and paragraphs into different sections or documents, so your initial citation of ibid becomes redundant, leaving you on a treasure hunt to find the source once again. Remember, it’s a lot faster to change references to ibid when your essay is finished than it is to track down and write out full citations again later on.

Manually typing out every single footnote isn’t much fun, so check out software like Endnote, which generates your references for you. If you’re struggling to get started, check with your law librarian as university libraries often run introductory classes for referencing software.

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