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Legal Citation

Introduction

The Importance of Legal Citation

Legal research relies very heavily on citation. In the first year of law school, citation focuses primarily on cases, statutes, articles and book citation. Case citation serves two major functions: first, a complete citation allows the reader to find the decision; second, it should convey valuable information about the case, including the year it was handed down, court level, jurisdiction and case history (if included). Accurate citation provides a road map that directs the reader to where to locate the law. As with an actual road map, users of citations depend on their accuracy.

This guide provides an introduction to the citation of:

  • Cases
  • Statutes and Regulations
  • Books and Journal Articles
  • Electronic Sources

Under each of these headings, you will find an explanation and detailed breakdown of how to construct a citation, followed by a series of examples.

McGill Guide: The Canadian Guide to Uniform Legal Citation

The Canadian Guide to Uniform Legal Citation, 8th ed (Toronto: Carswell, 2014), a.k.a. the McGill Guide, was created in an effort to standardize Canadian legal citation and provide a nationally acceptable reference system. The guide has been adopted as the authority on legal citation by many of Canadian legal publications including the Queen's Law Journal.  There are also other excellent freely-available online legal citation guides available, such as UBC's Legal Citation Guide and the Citation Guide for Saskatchewan Courts. In this guide, we will focus on giving an introduction to the most recent edition of the McGill Guide. To clarify any points, and for further details, please consult the McGill Guide itself.  Queen's Law Library has copies of the McGill Guide on reserve (call no. KE259 .C35 2014).