Frequently Asked Questions

Commonly asked questions (as fielded by legal research librarians).

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If you can suggest any other FAQs, please feel free to e-mail [email protected].


The short answer - in general, you do not have to worry. When an issue or volume is numbered from its first page to the last in sequential order, then it is consecutively paginated. An issue or volume may contain multiple articles, editorials, etc., within that same issue or volume. Thus, when citing to that particular article in a consecutively paginated journal, the page cite will be from that issue or volume's page range. Thus, you will not have to additionally cite to a sub-issue or quarterly edition. Follow Rule 16.3

For example,

      A volume has two issues with the first containing pages 1 to 180 and the second issue containing pages 181 to 370. This is a consecutively paginated volume.  When citing an article in the volume, give the page number but not the issue number.

If each issue in a volume begins at page 1, then the volume is non-consecutively paginated. Thus, in your citation you will need to indicate the issue as it appears on the cover. See Rule 16.5 for details.

See also Newspapers.

Unless the citation is a citation clause, every citation, whether in a footnote or in a brief, must end with a period. As a sentence by itself, it must also be separated by the next sentence by two spaces.

Also see What's the difference between a citation sentence, citation clause and textual reference?

For periods when citing to other court documents in a brief, see the Court Document section.

Citation sentence: A citation sentence is used when the citation refers to the entire preceding textual sentence. Begin with a capital and end with a period.

Citation clause: Use a citation clause when differing parts of one sentence require a citation. Set off with commas, unless it ends a sentence, then end with a period. For party name abbreviation rules, it is the same as a citation sentence.

Textual reference: When referring to a case by name alone, underline and cite fully with a citation sentence or citation clause.

For example,

       In the Colyer case Judge Anderson determined that mere membership in the communist party was not a threat to the country. Colyer v. Skeffington, 265 F. 17 (1920). Judge Anderson was later overruled on the communist issue, Skeffington v. Katzeff, 277 F. 129 (1922), but his decision and reasoning was often later cited. Galvan v. Press, 347 U.S. 522 (1954); Bovinas v. Savoretti, 146 F. Supp. 274 (1956).

In the above example, the first Colyer is a textual reference. The Skeffington is a citation clause. The last is a citation sentence.

A reporter is a bound publication containing case opinions. Many contain publishers' annotations (e.g. Westlaw topic and key numbers). A regional reporter is one that covers opinions from certain jurisdictions, e.g. the Northeastern Reporter covers states like Massachusetts and New York. Topical and state reporters are also common (e.g. tax reporters or family law reporters).

In Microsoft Word, go to font, and then click “small caps” option, or use the short form Control, Shift K. The "font" option is located in differing places depending on the version of Word used.

A pinpoint cite is required when the proposition you are supporting comes from a particular sentence(s)/page(s) of an opinion. Merely referring to the case is not enough unless you are talking about the case in general terms. Also see Signals.

A present participle is usually used in conjunction with the verb 'to be,' and should indicate an action that is in process and incomplete.

For example,

         The professor was lecturing.

         The author was reading his new bluebook guide.

Explanatory parenthetical in the bluebook usually begin with present participles. Examples include, but are not limited too, "questioning," "stating," "examining," etc.

For example,

          Smith v. Jones, 345 Mass. 222 (1990) (questioning the relevancy of DNA evidence).

          Smith v. Jones, 345 Mass. 222 (1990) (denying motion to dismiss).

          Smith v. Jones, 345 Mass. 222 (1990) (elaborating on historical precedents).

The Bluebook requires two typeface conventions depending on what the text is being used for. For Law Reviews consult Rule 2, and for Court Documents/Legal Memoranda consult Bluepages [Rule 2]. Be sure to check with local rules for Court Documents in case they differ.

The main differences are as follows.

Element Law Review Court Doc.*
Case Names Normal Underline
Case Name Short Form Italicize Underline
Statutory Compilations Small Caps Normal
Titles of Books/Articles Italicize Underline
Titles of Legislative Materials Normal Underline
Explanatory phrases introducing subsequent case history Italicize Underline
Introductory Signals, e.g. See Italicize Underline
Cross references Italicize Underline
Id. Italicize Underline
Law Review or Journal title abbreviations Small Caps Normal


*The Bluebook now allows you to substitute italics wherever underscoring is used in the Bluepages, so long as you are consistent.