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The Bluebook: A Systematic Approach: Introduction

Purpose of This Guide




The Bluebook:  A Uniform System of Citation is the definitive style guide for legal citation in the United States. Now in its twentieth edition, it is compiled by the editors of the Columbia Law Review, the Harvard Law Review, the University of Pennsylvania Law Review and the Yale Law Journal. It provides guidance for citing legal and non-legal materials concisely and completely.


The Bluebook seems to have a unique ability to frustrate, anger and intimidate law students. Indeed, it reduces many of them to a state of gibbering terror. But you can and you will master it if you approach it systematically. The purpose of this guide is to demystify The Bluebook by:


·         Providing a “mini-index” to the most heavily-used rules and tables

·         Presenting a systematic approach to its use

·         Explaining the use of  its “Powerful Secret Weapons”: the Table of Contents and the Index (See Step 2 in the Step-by-Step Guide)

·         Assembling citations from scratch

·         Highlighting the various aids to using it

·         Pointing to how-to guides and websites to help its users


Will it ever be warm and friendly? Um, sorry. But using this guide will definitely make it more accessible.

General Principles of Citation

Why to Cite


·         To allow readers to quickly and efficiently locate sources cited.

·         To indicate the weight of the authority cited.

·         To demonstrate the depth and breadth of research conducted.

·         To avoid plagiarism


When to cite

·         In the discussion section of a brief or memorandum

Typically not in the issue, brief answer, facts or conclusion sections

·         When you assert a legal principle

A contract must be supported with adequate consideration. CITE

·         When you refer to or describe the content of a legal authority

The court ruled that. . . CITE

·         When you quote from a source

An attorney must use the degree of skill commonly exercised by a “reasonable, careful and prudent lawyer.” CITE

·         When you borrow an idea, even when you do not use the language verbatim

The growth of international family law reflects two broadening trends: globalization and the spread of human rights. CITE

Intended Audience

This guide is aimed at UST (or indeed any) law students writing briefs, memoranda or upper-level papers. It uses the rules and conventions for practitioners’ documents rather than for law review footnotes.



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