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Bluebook Legal Citation System Guide

Guidance on how to use the Bluebook for legal citations

Getting Started

What is the Bluebook?

The Bluebook is a guide to a system of legal citation frequently used by law schools and law journals. This guide will introduce you to how to use the Bluebook. 

Print copies of the Bluebook are available in the Library in Reference and on Reserve at circulation. Copies can also be purchased in print or online at

References to page numbers in this guide are from the 21st edition.

Before You Start

  • Are you required to use Bluebook citation for your paper or article?
    • There are other citation formats.
    • Pick the correct one for your project.
  • Use your best judgement.
    • There are gaps in the Bluebook, particularly for non-traditional and non-U.S. sources.
    • Use the closest analogous rule.
  • Be consistent.
    • Make sure that you are citing the same source or types of sources in the same way. 
  • Keep in mind that the main goal for all citation systems is to make it easy for your reader to find the source you are citing. 

Six Steps to Creating a Citation

Six Steps to Your Citation

To create a Bluebook citation follow this six step process:

1. Identify the Type of Source

What type of source do you want to cite?

  • The Bluebook rules are organized by source type
  • Common types include cases, statutes, books and book chapters,  journal articles, web pages, etc.

2. Find the Bluebook Rule

Go to the Bluebook rule for that source type. 

  • Check the Quick Guides on the inside cover to identify major source types
  • Use the index to find rules for other types of sources not included in the Quick Guides
  • The Bluebook prefers citations to print sources.
    • If you found a traditionally printed source online, review both the rules for the print source and the rules for online sources
    • The print and online rules are often used together

3. Read the Rule & Examples

  • Read the rule carefully
  • Study any examples provided closely
  • Examples are provided inside the front cover, at the beginning of each rule, and within the text of the rules
  • Note which components are required to create a citation for a specific type of source

4. Gather the Citation Components

  • Gather the required components of the citation from your source

5. Draft a Citation

  • Draft a citation that looks like the most relevant example
  • Do your best, but don't worry if your first draft isn't perfect

6. Edit the Citation

  • Edit your draft citation using the Bluebook's style rules and tables
  • Note typeface and punctuation conventions for different types of sources
  • Note the rules for abbreviations and use the tables to abbreviate your citation

The Six-Step Process in Action

To see an example of how this process works with an article from the NY Times website, check out the powerpoint below.

Bluebook Navigation

Organization & Blue and White Pages

The Bluebook is organized into sections:

  • Bluepages
    • Rules
    • Tables
  • White Pages
    • Style Rules
    • Primary Law
    • Secondary Law
    • Internet & Electronic Sources
    • Foreign & International Materials
  • Tables: Jurisdictions & Abbreviations

Use the Bluepages  when drafting citations that will appear in documents like legal memoranda and court filings. 

Use the Whitepages when drafting citations that will appear in legal academic publications.

Quick Guides

The Quick Reference inside front and back covers of the print include rule cross references and sample citations for common citation types:

  • Inside Front: Quick Reference: Citations in Law Review Footnotes
  • Inside Back: Quick Reference: Citations in Court Documents & Legal Memoranda

There is also a Quick Style Guide online for common citation types used in law reviews:


Finding Aids

Consult the following to find the appropriate rule or table for your citation

  • Back cover compact table of contents
  • Full table of contents (pp. IX-XVI)
  • Index (pp. 329-365)

Bluebook Troubleshooting

Solving Citation Problems

The Bluebook isn't always clear.  Try the following if you're having difficulty with a citation:

  • Make sure you have the correct rule for your type of resource
  • If your type of resource isn't specifically included, find the one that is most similar
  • If you are citing material for a country that isn't in the Bluebook, find a country with a similar legal system to base your citation on
  • Search recent articles in law reviews on Hein, Westlaw and Lexis. Has anyone else cited this material?
  • Check the resources linked in Beyond the Bluebook 
  • Be consistent with the citation format you pick
  • Make sure to include enough information for a reader to follow in your footsteps.

Library Help

We are not Bluebook experts, but we're happy to help guide you through the Bluebooking process.

We can:

  • Provide access to Library copies of the Bluebook
  • Assist you as you navigate Bluebook rules
  • Help you locate supplemental citation guides and self-help materials

We cannot check footnotes for you, proofread your paper or provide authoritative Bluebook interpretations. 

Bluebook Orders, Comments & Corrections


  • The Harvard Law School Library is not affiliated directly with The Bluebook or the Harvard Law Review Association
  • The Bluebook 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 and is published and distributed by the Harvard Law Review Association

Please contact the editors of The Bluebook directly ( with orders, questions, comments or corrections. 

Beyond the Bluebook

Additional Bluebook Help

Over It? Here Are Some Other Options...

Citing & Bluebooking FAQs

Getting Help

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