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Law - Legal Citation Guide

Guide to help with legal citation for the most common situations.


General format:

Author, Title of the Book, edition (place of publication: publisher, year of publication) pinpoint reference if applicable.


Bruce Ziff, Principles of Property Law, 5th ed (Toronto: Carswell, 2010) at 148-155.

HG Beale, ed, Chitty on Contracts: Specific Contracts, vol 2, 30th ed (London, UK: Sweet & Maxwell, 2008). Note:  If a multi-volume work uses the same title for all volumes, treat the volume designation as a pinpoint (see below).



  • Use the name on the title page of the book, including titles such as The Honourable, Professor, Lord. Do not include academic degrees or other credentials, such as Q.C.
  • Include any initials the author uses; if more than one, do not leave spaces (e.g., JP Belliveau).
  • Example with two authors:  Janet Walker & Jean-Gabriel Castel
  • Example with three authors:  Nancy McCormack, John Papadopoulos & Catherine Cotter
  • Example with more than three authors:  Joost Blom et al



  • Example with one editor:  Michael Geist, ed, In the Public Interest: the Future of Canadian Copyright Law  (Toronto: Irwin Law, 2005).
  • Follow examples under author above if more than one editor. Use eds for editors.



  • Include the full title. If there is a sub-title, precede it with a colon as shown in the Geist example above.
  • Capitalize the title according to the conventions of the language of the title, regardless of the capitalization used on the title page. For English language titles, capitalize the first letter of each word except for articles, conjunctions and prepositions (e.g., a, the, and, or, in, around).



  • Use ed for edition.
  • Abbreviate as follows, which is different from the format used for law reporter series:  2nd ed, 3rd ed, 4th ed, 5th ed, etc. 
  • Do not use superscripts. 
  • If there is no edition statement, then 1st ed is assumed.


Place of Publication:

  • Use the first place of publication listed on the title page or verso.
  • Use the English spelling if it exists (e.g., Turin not Torino).
  • Add the state/province/country, if necessary to avoid confusion (e.g., London, Ont).



  • Use the name on the title page.
  • Omit initial “The” if one is listed.
  • Omit terms of corporate status (e.g., use Canada Law Book, not Canada Law Book Inc)
  • Omit “Publishing” or “Publishers” unless an integral part of the name of the publisher.


Year of Publication:

Use the copyright date of the book unless a specific year of publication is given.



To refer the reader to a specific page or section, add a reference following the publication information. Examples:

  • at 214 (refers to page 214)
  • at 214-18 (refers to pages 214 through 218)
  • at 214, 218 (refers to pages 214 and 218)
  • at 214, n 2 (refers to page 214, footnote 2)
  • at 214, nn 2-5 (refers to page 214, footnotes 2 though 5)
  • at para 32 (refers to paragraph 32)
  • at paras 32-37 (refers to paragraphs 32 through 37)
  • ch 5 at 83 (refers to chapter 5, page 83
  • vol 3 at 27 (refers to volume 3, page 27 of a multi-volume work published under one common title))

Loose-leaf Format Books

If a book is published in a loose-leaf format so that it can be updated, it is not fixed in time like a book that has been bound. It is important to let the reader know how current the book was when you consulted it. You will find the records of when the loose-leaf book was updated at either the front or back of the book. 


Mr Justice G Peter Fraser, John W Horn & The Honourable Madam Justice Susan A Griffin, The Conduct of Civil Litigation in British Columbia, 2nd ed (Markham, Ont: LexisNexis, 2007) (loose-leaf updated 2014, release 16) vol 2 at para 39.12.

Chapters in Books

Some books are not written by a single author or authors. Rather, an editor may compile a collection of essays around a common theme.

General format:

Author, “Title of Chapter” in Author of Book, Title of the Book, edition (place of publication: publisher, year of publication) first page of essay and pinpoint reference if applicable.


Mark Perry, “Rights Management Information” in Michael Geist, ed, In the Public Interest: the Future of Canadian Copyright Law  (Toronto: Irwin Law, 2005) 251 at 254.

Journal Articles

General format:

Author, “Title of Article” (year) volume:issue | Abbreviation of Journal | first page of the article | pinpoint if applicable.

Electronic format:

Some journals are published exclusively in electronic format. Follow this form:

Author, "Title of Article", online: (year) volume:issue | Abbreviation of Journal | first page or number of the article | pinpoint if applicable.


  • Lionel D Smith, “The Province of the Law of Restitution” (1992) 71:4 Can Bar Rev 672.
  • Antonios Broumas, “Code, Access to Knowledge and the Law: the Governance of Knowledge in the Digital Age”, online: (2005) 5:1-2 U Ottawa L & Tech J 221 <>.


  • Use the name on the title page of the article, including titles such as The Honourable, Professor, Lord.  Do not include academic degrees or other credentials.
  • See more notes above in the Books section.



  • See notes above in the Books section.


Year of Publication:

  • If there is a volume number for the journal, include the date in parentheses.
  • If the journal does not use volume numbers, put the date in brackets (e.g., [1970]).


Volume and Issue:

  • Including the issue number for journals if you can find it.
  • Note that many older references to journals will include the volume number only. The use of the issue number was reserved for the few journals that restarted the page number with each issue, to make finding an article easier. Now, many journals are available online and are not bound together as a single volume and so it makes sense to include the issue number.


Journal Title:

  • Abbreviate the full title of the journal.  See Journal Abbreviations.
  • If you don’t find an abbreviation, write out the full title.



  • See notes above in the Books section.

Case Comments

A case comment is a special type of journal article. Often, a journal article will comment on a case, and perhaps compare and contrast a case with others, with no mention of the term, "case comment." Cite these articles like other journal articles.

Sometimes, an article will actually indicate that it is a case comment. These articles may, or may not, have a title. 

General format:

Author, “title if applicable”, Case Comment on case name, journal citation. Note:  Do not include the case name if it is a part of the title.


  • Lionel Smith, “Public Justice and Private Justice: Restitution After Kingstreet”, Case Comment on Kingstreet Investments  Ltd v New Brunswick (Department of Finance), (2008) 46 Can Bus LJ 11.
  • Freda M Steel & Marta J Smith, “A Comment on the Application by LEAF for Intervenor Status in Klachefsky v Brown”, Case Comment, (1989) 4 Can Fam LQ 57.
  • Stephen R Cole, “Case Comments on Dibbley v Dibbley, Postma v Postma and Menage v Hedgesfrom an Accountant’s Perspective” (1988) Can Fam LQ 105.


Dictionaries are not normally cited, but are used as one begins research to learn the meaning of words and phrases, and to develop a research vocabulary. After the bibliographic information, introduce the word or phrase with sub verbo, which means "under the word." See the following examples.

Commonly Used Dictionaries:

Black’s Law Dictionary, 5th ed, sub verbo “restitution."

Canadian Online Legal Dictionary, sub verbo "Curative provisor," accessed July 11, 2014 <>.

The Dictionary of Canadian Law, 4th ed, sub verbo “estoppel."

The Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd ed, sub verbo “domicile."


Specialized Dictionaries:

Walter Goode, Dictionary of Trade Policy Terms, 4th ed (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003) sub verbo “re-exports."


Legal encyclopedias are not normally cited, but are used as one begins research to learn about a legal issue and find references to primary sources of law. Examples for the print and electronic versions of the two Canadian encyclopedias follow.

Canadian Encyclopedic Digest (CED):

The CED is currently in its 4th edition (shorten to 4th).  The loose-leaf set of the CED is published in two versions - Ontario (Ont) and Western (West). There is an alphabetical arrangement of subjects (known as "titles"). The online version, available via WestlawNext Canada, sometimes refers to the Ontario or Western versions; include this information in your citation if it is provided.


Print:  CED (West 4th), vol 49, title 139 at para 460.  This citation refers to paragraph 460 under the subject Restitution (title 139), which is found in volume 49 of the set. 

Online:  CED 4th, Remedies 6.3.f at para 460. 


Halsbury’s Laws of Canada:

Halsbury's is currently in its 1st edition but reissues volumes periodically. It is important to include this information in your citation because it is similar to an edition statement. Halsbury's uses an alphabetical arrangement with no volume numbers. Note that in the print version and online version, available via Lexis Advance Quicklaw, a shortened designation for subjects is used. For example, HLP stands for Halsbury's Legal Profession. 


Print or Online:  Halsbury’s Laws of Canada, Legal Profession (2013 reissue) at para 228. 

In this example, it is not necessary to include the designation HLP-228 because all of infomation is provided in the citation, and it is too cryptic for anyone unfamiliar with Halsbury's.