Step 1A. Do a Preliminary Analysis of Your FactsStep 1B. Try to Construct Legal ArgumentsStep 1C. Use a Legal Dictionary if Necessary
Step 2A. Consult Legal Encyclopedias for a General Overview of your TopicStep 2B. Search ALR for a Relevant AnnotationStep 2C. Use Law Reviews to Find Relevant Law
This is the "Legal Citation" page of the "ENG 392: Legal Writing" guide.
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ENG 392: Legal Writing   Tags: law  

This guide introduces students in ENG 392 Legal Writing classes to basic legal research using UMD resources.
Last Updated: Jun 11, 2015 URL: Print Guide RSS UpdatesEmail Alerts

Legal Citation Print Page

Overview of Legal Citation

The proper citation of legal sources is a very important aspect of presenting the results of your legal research in both academic and real-world settings. Professors, lawyers, judges, and others who read your work expect you to cite your work properly in order to assess the strength of your legal arguments. Because legal material is often dense and complicated, figuring out how to cite it can be a challenge--but don't worry, you have plenty of resources to help you!


Legal Citation Systems and Manuals

When tasked with legal writing assignments, students are typically instructed to follow one of two major legal citation systems/styles and stick to it. Each system has its own manual that provides rules and standards for citing different types of legal materials. The McKeldin Library has both the Bluebook and ALWD manuals behind the reference desk for you to use. The Bluebook system is by far the most widely used; the ALWD system is an alternative system that has caught on at many law schools and among many legal professionals.

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The Bluebook
Call Number: MCKREF KF 245.B58 2010
ISBN: 9780615361161
Publication Date: 2010-05-02
Generations of law students, lawyers, scholars, judges, and other legal professionals have relied on The Bluebook's unique system of citation in their writing. In a diverse and rapidly changing legal profession, The Bluebook continues to provide a systematic method by which members of the profession communicate important information to one another about the sources and legal authorities upon which they rely in their work.

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ALWD Citation Manual - Dickerson
Call Number: MCKREF KF 245.A45 2010
ISBN: 9780735589308
Publication Date: 2010-04-16
In its Third Edition, The new standard guide to legal citation continues to present a single, consistent system of citation for all forms of legal writing in a clear, attractive, and easy-to-use format. This phenomenally popular reference rivals the Bluebook because it: is written, designed, and edited by professionals. An author website to support classroom instruction using this title is available at

Helpful Websites and Apps

You'll find that intepreting the citation rules in the Bluebook and ALWD manuals often involves just that--interpretation! If after reading either manual you're still not sure how to read a citation or how to cite something in your written work, you may want to consult one or more of these helpful websites:

  • ALWD Citation Manual Resources
    This website contains more information about the ALWD citation system.
  • Bluebook Guide--Georgetown Law School
    Intended for Georgetown Law School audiences but available to anyone to view, this Guide explains the organization and layout of the Bluebook, its use in theory and in practice, and how to cite the most common legal materials, including cases, statutes and treatises. The Guide also reviews how to cite electronic materials.
  • Citeus Legalus
    This website promotes itself as the "Legal Citation Generator for Lazy Law Students." It generates Bluebook citations based on the information you input. It is by no means 100% accurate and it does not do everything you'll typically need for a writing assignment, but it is one way to double-check your work.
  • Cornell Legal Information Institute, Basic Legal Citation
    A very helpful guide authored by Peter Martin that explains both Bluebook and ALWD citation style. It provides numerous examples that illustrate the similarities and differences between the two.
  • Zotero
    Zotero is a free, easy-to-use tool to help you collect, organize, cite, and share your research sources in all subjects, including law. You can add the legal citation "styles" to Zotero and have it automatically generate citations for you. Keep in mind that, because of the complexity of legal citation, these styles are not 100% accurate, so it's best to treat them as a "rough draft" generator that you then edit yourself. Watch for Zotero classes on the Terrapin Learning Commons (TLC) homepage: You may also want to try other research management tools like Endnote, Mendeley, or Refworks.

Helpful Books

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Cite Checker - Deborah E. Bouchoux
Call Number: KF245 .B68 2011
ISBN: 9780735587663
Publication Date: 2010-12-02
This self-paced guide to citation form is a perfect match for any basic Legal Writing and Research course. Cite-Checker is a short, concise book providing students with everything they need to learn and master proper citation form according To The Bluebook . A readable and pragmatic guide, this valuable text offers thorough explanations of important concepts as well as self-checking exercises to help students master the concepts discussed.

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Cite Right - Charles Lipson
Call Number: MCKREF PN171.F56 L55 2006
ISBN: 9780226484747
Publication Date: 2006-10-15
This book offers quick and helpful advice about citing work in a range of disciplines, including law. Chapter 12 covers Bluebook citation; Chapter 13 covers ALWD citation.


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