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Bluebooking and Legal Citation: Troubleshooting

Step 0: Keep Calm

Angry cat studying

Photo by the Found Animals Foundation / CC BY-SA 2.0

Know that many highly accomplished judges, law professors, and lawyers also struggle with legal citation (see the Getting Perspective tab).

Remember the general principles of the Bluebook:

  • There may not be a rule.
  • If there's no rule, find a similar citation and use it as a model.
  • Ultimately, what matters is helping the reader find the source.

Before You Start

1. Give yourself enough time. Many students leave Bluebooking until the end, when they are proofreading their papers, only to discover that they need to use a print source or clarify a rule with their professor. Give yourself enough time to visit the library and talk to your professor.

2. Use the right source. (Hint: It's probably print.) The Bluebook requires you to cite to specific sources. In particular, students are often tripped up by R18.2, which requires the use of print sources, exact copies of print sources, or authenticated or official documents. If you're baffled by where to find the date or other information online, it's probably because you're supposed to be using print.

3. Find a good guide. Many print and online guides simplify and explain the rules of the Bluebook. Additionally, the Bluepages at the beginning of the book provide a simplified overview of the Bluebook, designed for court documents but useful as a starting point for academic writing, too. For a complete list of guides, see the Guides and Tutorials tab.

Get Help

4. Talk to your professor. The Bluebook doesn't provide clear guidance in every situation and many professors have special rules about, e.g. which reporter to cite. If you run into a tricky source, check in with your professor to see how they would like you to handle it.

5. Get advice from Loyola's writing specialists or student writing tutors. To schedule an appointment, visit the TWEN pages for Legal Writing Resources or Loyola Writing Tutors. For more details, see:

6. Get advice from a librarian. We are always happy to help you locate the relevant rules, find a guide, or search for possible model citations if you stop by the reference desk (located behind the front desk) or email reference@lls.edu.

7. Email the editors of the style guide. If being really and truly complete is important to you (or your professor, boss, or law review editor), the Bluebook editors can be reached at editor@legalbluebook.com.

8. Talk to your professor. We mean it.

Find A Model

9.  Use a model from the style guide's publisher.

If you're puzzled by how to format a particular source in Bluebook style, search for it in the five journals that publish the Bluebook (Columbia Law Review, Harvard Law Review, University of Pennsylvania Law Review, and Yale Law Journal) and then use their citation style as a model.

Likewise, if you're puzzled by how to format a particular source in California Style Manual style, search for it in California Supreme Court cases and then use their citation style as a model.

10. Use a model from the court or journal where you are submitting the document.

If you are writing a brief for a court or an article for a journal, search cases from that court or articles from that journal to see how they have formatted citations in the past.

11. Use a model from another style guide.

If the Bluebook does not provide a citation form for a particular source, consider using the citation form from a more specific manual. For example, use the California Style Manual's citation for Witkin.

Be cautious when using this strategy- it is always best to check with your professor or a more experienced attorney first.