Fundamentals of Legal Research
Adam J. McKee, Ph.D.
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Using the Bluebook and APA
Whenever a case is cited, a convention must be followed in how the citation is formatted. Begin with the italicized name of the case. Next, put the year that the case was decided in parentheses. This is followed by the volume number, then the abbreviation for the reporter that the case is found in, and then the page number that the case starts on.
Example: Byars v. United States, 273 U.S. 28 (1927)
Often Supreme Court, cases are cited using a system of parallel citations. Parallel citations include the official reporter (U.S. for the U.S. Supreme Court) as well as the citations from the two commercial providers of Supreme Court Cases. In other words, parallel citations are used when a case can be found in more than one reporter.
Parallel citations are often used when a case appears in a state reporter as well as a regional reporter. Whether this is mandatory in court documents depends on the court rules of the particular jurisdiction. If parallel citations are used, cite the state reporter first and then the regional reporter.
Example: City of Fort Smith v. Carter, 372 Ark. 93; 270 S.W.3d 822 (2008) Example: Weeks v. United States, 232 U.S. 383; 34 S. Ct. 341; 58 L. Ed. 652 (1914)
The APA Style
Many writing projects in criminal justice will require students to present legal citations according to the style guidelines of the American Psychological Association (APA) rather than the Blue Book. Because the APA style adopted most of its conventions for legal citations from the Blue Book, there are few differences. The major difference is that the APA cites everything in a master reference page at the end of the paper; the Blue Book uses a more traditional (in law) footnote system. For APA, the researcher needs to understand two separate formatting issues: how to format the text citations, and how to format the reference page citation. A basic rule for all APA citations is that every source credited on the reference page should be referred to in the text of the paper, and every source cited in the text of the paper should be found on the Reference page.
Because the APA Style is a parenthetical citation system, parentheses will always be involved. The best way to refer to a case in the text of an APA paper is to make reference to the case (italicize case names), and follow the name of the case by the year that the case was decided in parentheses.
Example: The Court first articulated the rule in Weeks v. United States (1914).
The reference page listing for the case will contain more information. Provide the name of the case (italicized), the volume, reporter, page number, and the date just as in a legal publication.
Example: Weeks v. United States, 232 US 383, (1914)
When referring to a statute in the text of an APA style paper, refer to the title of the act either using the date as part of the name of the statute, or parenthetically following the name of the statute.
Example: The provisions of the Mental Health Systems Act of 1988 stipulate… Example: The provisions of the Mental Health Systems Act (1988) stipulate…
The reference page entry will have more information, including the applicable code section. Provide the name of the act, the volume number of the source, the proper abbreviation for the source, the section symbol (§) and the section number.
Example: Mental Health Systems Act, 42 U.S.C. § 9401 (1988).
Administrative and Executive Materials
For federal rules and regulations, the in-text citation is formatted by the title (or number) and the year in parentheses.
Example: According to the FDA Prescription Drug Advertising Rule (2006), drug manufacturers….
The reference page entry will have the full citation of the source, including the name of the regulation, the volume of the source, the official abbreviation of the source, the page number, and the date in parentheses.
Example: FDA Prescription Drug Advertising Rule, 21 C.F.R. § 202.1 (2006)
Modification History File Created: 08/08/2018 Last Modified: 06/13/2019
This work is licensed under an Open Educational Resource-Quality Master Source (OER-QMS) License.
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