Skip to Main Content

Library Tutorial for Legal 100

Unit 10: Using Citations

In this unit, you will learn what citations are and how you use them to integrate information from other sources into your coursework and academic studies.  Read the material and watch the video - and don't forget to take notes for the quiz.

General Citation Basics

Watch the video below to learn what citations are, and how to use them to document your sources in your paper.

NC State University, Source: YouTube

Legal Citation Basics

Legal Citations

Different areas of study use different citation styles, and the Paralegal Program uses a legal citation formatting style.  Like all kinds of other citations, legal citations ensure that you give credit to your sources and your work is not plagiarized.  However, legal citations are also use to provide evidence to legal statements and arguments with primary and secondary authority.

The Legal Information Institute at Cornell Law School defines a legal citation as a:
Reference to a source that supports a statement or is otherwise related to it.  In legal documents, the source may be a primary legal authority (such as a case or a statute) or a secondary legal authority (such as a treatise or dictionary).


To use the legal citation, style you need to look up the rules when you need them.  You are not expected to remember them. For your Legal courses, you will use the The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation which is the accepted source to understand how to format legal citations. 

The Legal Information Institute at Cornell Law School provides this definition of the Bluebook: 
The Bluebook is a manual that codifies national citation standards in the legal field.  Originally published in 1926, it is periodically updated to reflect new types of authorities cited in legal text and new ideas about how to organize them.  The popularity of The Bluebook among law students and professionals has given rise to a new name: "bluebooking."  Bluebooking is the process of supporting assertions with citations in proper form.

Click on the title or book cover to see the website for the Bluebook. 
(The information on the website will not be included in the tutorial quiz.)


Why does it matter?

The Legal Information Institute provides a helpful explanation of the role of legal citations in standardizing references to primary and secondary authority that is used to create, implement, enforce, interpret, and understand the laws in the United States:

What is “legal citation”? It is a standard language that allows one writer to refer to legal authorities with sufficient precision and generality that others can follow the references. Because writing by lawyers and judges is so dependent on such references, it is a language of abbreviations and special terms.

A reference properly written in “legal citation” strives to do at least three things, within limited space:

  • identify the document and document part to which the writer is referring
  • provide the reader with sufficient information to find the document or document part in the sources the reader has available (which may or may not be the same sources as those used by the writer), and
  • furnish important additional information about the referenced material and its connection to the writer’s argument to assist readers in deciding whether or not to pursue the reference.

The task of “legal citation” in short is to provide sufficient information to the reader of a brief or memorandum to aid a decision about which authorities to check as well as in what order to consult them and to permit efficient and precise retrieval—all of that, without consuming any more space or creating any more distraction than is absolutely necessary.

You now have a good understanding the purpose of citations in general and legal citations in particular, and their importance in referencing the sources you use in your work.  If you have any questions or you need help with citations, ask a librarian.  We are here to help! 


You have now completed the Library Tutorial.

You can now return to Canvas to take the Library Tutorial Quiz #2 which will cover units 8, 9 and 10.

undefinedGreat work!