This guide provides instructional materials and answers to questions about Bluebook citation. It is intended to assist Harvard Law School LLM students in finalizing their master's theses. However, the guide can help anyone who is writing a scholarly law paper, including JD students.
Research librarians are available to help you with your Bluebook citation questions.
1. You can come to the reference desk on the fourth floor of the law library for in-person help from a reference librarian.
Reference desk hours:
2. You can request a Bluebook consult meeting with a reference librarian.
The library offers a series of Bluebook classes (each series is two sessions, one on U.S. sources and one on foreign and international sources) several times a year.
To sign up for the library's Bluebook classes, visit http://libcal.law.harvard.edu/calendar/researchtraining/ and, in the Search for Event box, type Bluebook. Then click Search.
The PowerPoint slides from the two classes are below. They include instructions for frequently cited sources, with examples.
IMPORTANT #1: If you have not attended the library's Bluebook classes, it may be helpful for you to review those slides first to find answers to general Bluebook questions. (The links are in the box just above this one.)
IMPORTANT #2: All of the FAQ answers use the 20th edition of the Bluebook, and so should you. It really provides the most up-to-date rules, especially for citing online sources.
If there is not a FAQ on this page that addresses your concern, and it is not discussed in the slides either, then try looking it up in the Bluebook's Index, which starts on page 525.
Yes! Right inside the front cover there is a quick guide to the major rules, with citation examples. Use this as a quick reference if you can't remember which rule covers which type of source.
Rule 18 (starting on page 178) has general rule for citing pretty much every online source that you would cite in an academic paper, including websites, documents found online, blogs, social media posts, etc. So if you want to cite a source you found online, read Rule 18 first.
Remember, the Bluebook really prefers that you cite to a print source. It has gotten more flexible over the years. However, for something like a law review article, even if you found it online, you still need to follow the instructions in Rule 16 (starting on page 159) to cite it.
Instructions for doing this are in Rule 3.5: Internal Cross-References (p. 77).
If you cited only one source in footnote #1, and you want to cite the exact same source in footnote #2, that is when you use id. Only the source has to be the same, not the page or section.
For secondary sources like law review articles and books, if you want to cite a source that you cited longer ago in your paper than the previous footnote, you can use supra.
When you do a supra citation, you have to use the same font specifications as you did in the original citation. What does that mean? If you cited a book in the earlier footnote, you put the author's name in small caps. You have to do the same thing in the supra footnote. Footnote #7 in the example below illustrates this.
So what if you want to cite a case (or other primary source) that you have cited before? You cannot use supra for that. Instead, you have two options:
Most LLM papers are in a constant state of flux until they are turned in. Adding footnotes can be a problem if you already have supra references. In the example below, footnote #5 was just added. It cites a different law review article.
Take a look at footnotes #8 and #10 now. The Jackson book is no longer in footnote #5 after this addition, it's now in footnote #6. If you have 200 footnotes already done in your paper, you will have to go back and find each one that cites the Jackson book and change the 5 to a 6. What a pain!
Instead, what you should do from the very start is use MS Word's internal cross-reference feature. It's great! Here's how it works.
If you do this, then it is very easy to update all the footnote number references later. Simply click in any footnote, press the Ctrl and A keys at the same time to select all the footnote text, and press the F9 key.
See and see also are called introductory signals. They help explain why and how you are citing and using a particular source. There are several different types of signals:
Rule 1.2 (page 58) explains their use.
Sometimes with signals, you may want to provide additional information that explains why you are citing a particular source. Rule 1.5: Parenthetical Information (page 64), explains how to do this. Footnotes #13 and #14 have been added to the example (below) to show how signals and parentheticals are used.
Rule 4.2 (p. 80) explains both supra and hereinafter.
One use of hereinafter is if you cite two sources by the same author in the same footnote. You will need a way to distinguish them in later supra references. This is when hereinafter can come in handy. See footnotes #15 and #16 in the example below.
You may be asking why you can't use id. in footnote #16 above. Remember, you can only use id. if the previous footnote cited only one source.
Instructions for citing foreign (non-English) materials are provided in detail in Rule 20.2 and in the individual country sections in Table T2.
Generally, when it comes to language version, you need to cite the source you are referring to, as detailed in rules 20.2.2 and 20.2.5.
In creating these two examples, the following rules were consulted (and some judgment calls were made):
These examples may create more questions than they answer. For example, the German Basic Law is cited in small caps, whereas the Italian constitution is not (and, perhaps, should be). In this case, each of those citations were created according to the jurisdictional rules in T2.
Note that, in the end, these two sources may be cited differently by different U.S. law reviews. Journal editors make judgment calls about citation all the time. Just get it as close as you can to what the Bluebook says, make sure your reader can find what you're citing, and then don't stress about it anymore.
Cite foreign books just like U.S. books according to rule 15. For articles from foreign periodicals and newspapers, see rule 20.6. They are illustrated in footnotes #19 and #20 below.
Providing an English-language translation of foreign-language article titles is allowed, but not necessary. There is no stated rule on that topic for books.
There are two major issues that come up in most LLM papers: capitalization in titles and footnote number placement in the text.
The Bluebook's capitalization rule, Rule 8, states the following regarding capitalization of words titles:
Incorrect article title:
Hearing the voiceless: a respected judge on putting the rights of crime victims above those of defendants
Correct article title:
Hearing the Voiceless: A Respected Judge on Putting the Rights of Crime Victims Above Those of Defendants
In the text of the article, place the footnote number after any punctuation, including periods, commas, quotations marks, etc.
The rule for citing footnotes is on page 73.
In footnote #21 in the example below, the author is citing footnote #73 on page 54 of the article by Green.
The Bluebook does provide rules for citing sources from selected jurisdictions, listed below with page number references to Table T2. If your jurisdiction is not included, follow the rules for a jurisdiction with a similar language and legal system as closely as you can.