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Citation in legal research and writing 2024 [beginner’s guide]

This post covers citation in legal research and writing.

In legal research and report writing a researcher is supposed to show a number of references used in his or her work.

The references will help the reviewer of the reports to trace sources of information and also exonerate the researcher from plagiarism liabilities.

Citation in legal research and writing

Citing means providing due acknowledgment and recognition to the authors of any resources you have utilized or that have had an impact on your report.

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You must provide both an in-text citation and a complete reference in your bibliography for your referencing to be deemed comprehensive.

When a reader encounters an in-text citation, they can use the bibliography to find all the necessary details to find the mentioned item.

Consider a reference as the document’s address.

The item must have each component in place for the reader to be able to locate it.

Why do you need citations in legal research and writing?

There are numerous reasons why it’s critical to correctly acknowledge and reference other people’s work in your research including;

  • It will show that you are taking academic responsibility seriously by citing other researchers
  • Using quotations from other authors’ words and thoughts to avoid plagiarism
  • It will allow your reader to locate the sources you’ve cited
  • It will demonstrate to your audience that you have done thorough research
  • It will boost the authority, expertise, and trustworthiness of your research

Citation guidelines in legal research and writing

Here I will provide a list of some common legal citations that you may use in your work.

  1. Textbooks
  2. Journal and Articles
  3. legislations
  4. International Instruments
  5. Dissertations,
  6. Case Law
  7. Newspapers.
  8. Online Source


Guidelines on citing textbooks are as follows

Name of Author or Authors, Titles of the Book, Publication details, Publishers, Town and Year, and Page reference if required.

Harvard Style.

Reisman, D (1998), The Political Economy of Health Care, pp. 19 – 140, St. Martins Press, New York.

Turabian Style

Houghton, Walter E, Victorian Poetry and Poetics, Cambridge; Harvard University Press, 1959

Book With Edition

Smith, G (1970), Administrative Law, 2ndEd, Oxford University Press, London.

A book consisting of two authors

Martin, R and Robert Strange (1969), Law without Precedent, University of Chicago Press, Chicago.

More than two authors

Martin, R et al (1974), Personal Freedom and the Law in Tanzania, Oxford University Press, Nairobi.


Name of the author, the title of the article in quotations, Name of the Journal, Vol. No of the Journal, Issue No, Page No.

Example: Binamungu, C.S (1996) “Land as Collateral for Loans in Tanzania; Some Complications”, Uongozi  Journal of Management Development, Vol. 2, Issue No. 1, pp. 71 – 84



Name of country, Name of the Act/ Statute, Number, Calendar, Year, Publisher and Place of Publication.

Example: Tanzania Government of, Finance Act, No. 18 of 2002, Government Printers,     Dar es Salaam


When citing regulations, include the name of the regulation and the year.

Ex:(FCC Broadcast Radio Services, 1999).


Name of an author or authors, Year, Title in italics, Type of publication, Research Group, Name of Institution, Country.

Example: Peel, C (1998), Aspects of Neutral Network for Modeling and Control, Dissertation, the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, UK.


Reported Case

Name of parties, Year in which the case was Reported, Law Report and Page number of the case.

Example: Said Ali Maswanya vs. African Buyer [1981], TLR, p. 221

Unreported Cases

Name of the parties, Name of Court and Place, No. of the case and year indicated as an unreported case.

Example: Hadija Mnene vs. Ally Maberi Mbaga & NBC, HC – Civil Appeal No. 40 of 1998 (Unreported).


Name of the writer/ author, Article, Name of the Newspaper, Page Number, Issue Number and date.

Example: Mini Michuzi, “Sports and Games in Tanzania”, Sunday News, p. 7, Issue No. 2,   12th May 2006.


City in which they are concluded and the year

Example: Stockholm Conference of 1972

Sometimes they are cited by their subject matter and the year in which it was concluded.

Example: Universal Declaration on Human Rights of 1948


Name of the author, date published (if not available insert ‘n.d’), the title of the article/post, the website name, Article Url, retrieved/accessed date

Example: Jacobson, I. (n.d.). Prenuptial Agreement Sample Form and 5 Mistakes to Avoid. [online] Available at: [Accessed 8 Nov. 2019].

Final Remarks

You have to bear in mind that, referring to the books or any source without acknowledging it will amount to academic crime; that is ‘plagiarism’.

Also in writing a bibliography, one has to put it in chronological order, with no numbering, and adhere to all guidelines as provided above.

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See also a sample of legal research proposal + PDF download


Binamungu, C.S, and M.C. Mukoyogo, (2005), Studying Law Skills; A guide for Beginners in Law, Mzumbe Book Project, Mzumbe.

Kombo, D.K and D.L.A. Tromp (2006), Proposal and Thesis Writing; An Introduction, Pauline’s Publications Africa, Nairobi.

Shumbusho, G.N, (1997), Basic Academic Writing; A Reference Guide, RIP, Mzumbe.

Isack Kimaro
Isack Kimaro

Isack Kimaro, a lawyer, Creative Writer and self-taught SEO expert has been a prominent author of law-related topics since 2017. Through hard work, dedication, and a relentless pursuit of knowledge, Isack has successfully navigated the legal industry by providing valuable and easy-to-understand legal information to 500,000+ individuals of all levels of understanding.