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The Bluebook requires citation to a printed source unless it is unavailable. "Unavailable" is roughly translated as sources that are (i) not published in hard format, or (2) so obscure and rare as to be deemed unpublished (Rule 18).

Parallel citations to both a printed and electronic source is permissible only when the electronic citation substantially improves access [rule 18]. Follow the print source with "available at" [see section below].


Commercial Electronic Databases [Rule 18.1]

In effect, the Bluebook is referring to Westlaw and Lexis (though there are others like LoisLaw). These databases are deemed reliable enough to cite to when a source is unavailable in a traditionally printed form and are preferred over other electronic sources (Rule 18.1).

(1) Cases - cite to Westlaw or Lexis when a case is unreported but has a Westlaw or Lexis citation.

          Case name; docket number; database identifier; court name; full date.

The database identifier is the code or number given to the source by the database.

In the example below, the identifier is 2000 U.S. App. LEXIS 2525.

    Davis v. Latschar, No. 99-5037, 2000 U.S. App. LEXIS 2525 (D.C. Cir. Feb. 22, 2000).

(2) Statutes - in the parenthetical indicate the database, publisher and how current the database is (comparable to the copyright year of the hard copy). Remember Rule 18 - only if it is unavailable.

           Mont. Code Ann. § 2-4-7 (West, Westlaw through 2000 legislation).

(3) Other sources. Indicate any database identifiers and if it is unclear, which database is being used in the parenthetical.

           H.R. 2650, 108th Cong. § 44(c) (2000), 2000 CONG US HR 4001 (Westlaw).


Internet Citations [Rule 18.2]

Direct Citations to Internet Sources

Cite directly to an internet source when a source does not exist in a traditionally printed form or commercial database. Also, if there the internet has a source exactly the same as the printed version and it would improve access, you may parallel cite to the internet with "available at.

"Model: author; title/statute/case name; pagination (publication date); URL

(1) Typeface the title or party name as you would for a normal citation. Do not underline the URL. If there is no printed comparsion, treat the source as unpublished and follow rule 17. See generally rule 18.2.3(b).

(2) If an author is unclear, a title alone may be used [rule 18.2.3(c)].

(3) Only pinpoint cite, if a page number appears in the document itself, e.g. PDFs, and not screen numbers [rule 18.2.3(d)].

(4) Dates. Indicate a year if the date clearly refers to the material cited, else use "last visited X date " in the parenthetical [rule 18.2.3(e)].

          Tom Parfitt, 'Father of the Turkmen' dies aged 66, Guardian Newspaper, December 21, 2006,

Parallel Citations with Internet Sources - 18.2.2 A parallel internet citation (along with a traditional printed source), is encouraged if the internet source is, 1) identical in content, and 2) will substantially improve access to the source when the printed source is generally unavailable.

After the citation to the traditional source, insert "available at" followed by the internet source (thus indicating that it is merely a secondary location for the material).

For example:

          Town of Concord 2007 Community Preservation Plan, Concord Community Preservation Committee (Sep. 25, 2006), available at

Frequently Asked Question: Which URL do I cite? [Rule 18.2.1]

The URL should take the reader directly to the page, with no intervening links in between. If the URL is long and unwieldy, then indicate the root URL with a parethentical explaining how to access the information. Note, if the explanation itself is long and unwieldy, then resort to inserting the unwieldy URL itself. PDF URLs are preferable over URLs with no PDFs.


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