General Rules: Australian Guide to Legal Citation

If you need to cite legal sources of information for your work, you should learn the standard rules of the well-known Australian Guide to Legal Citation. This is a particular set of certain that should be applied to citing both primary and secondary law sources. There are three editions of AGLC which are aimed at providing not only general rules but also helpful examples for citing legal sources in an appropriate way.

What is the Australian Guide to Legal Citation?

The Australian Guide to Legal Citation (AGLC) is published by the Melbourne University Law Review Association in conjunction with the Melbourne Journal of International Law, the primary aim of which is to provide a general framework for referencing materials used in legal assignments throughout Australia. Prior to the release of the first volume of AGLC in 1998, four different international legal citation manuals included secondary sections on how to operate in an Australian law context. However, no guidebooks for citing legal sources designed specifically for the Australian system of laws were in existence.

The main difference between each of the editions is breadth and scope of options, and how to cite aspects of Australian law in an international context. For instance, the 1998 edition only focused on how to operate within a context of Australian law juxtaposed against that of New Zealand, the United Kingdom, United States, and Canada. The second edition, which was released in 2002, began including internet sources, and also addressed international sources in greater depth over matters like decisions by the European Court of Justice, the WTO and GATT. The third edition from 2011 added 14 chapters divided into six sections, and included special focus on the legal jurisdictions of China, Hong Kong, France, Germany, Malaysia, Singapore, and South Africa. Much of the additional length of the latest edition was made up of examples to draw from, further simplifying the process.

The AGLC and You

Have a look at the guidelines on how to refer to the most frequently used legal sources. We recommend that you pay special attention to the referencing style that the Australian Guide to Legal Citation utilizes. There are students who avoid using citations when writing papers in law subjects because they don't know how to do this in the right way. If you underestimate the role of the right citation format, you risk getting a low score on your paper with the teacher's remark “this paper contains plagiarism” at the bottom. It is possible to avoid such unpleasant situations by devoting a little time to learning the citation format guidelines provided by the Australian Guide to Legal Citation.

How to Differentiate Between Primary and Secondary Sources of Information

Before you get started with citing, you should learn how to differentiate between primary and secondary sources. This is a necessary step to take because these two groups of sources should take into account the specifics of each in formatting. The category of primary sources includes such sources as legislation and common law. For example, you may use judgments that haven't been officially reported for your work. Cases and judgments fall into the category of primary sources.

One may refer descriptions of the primary sources to the category of secondary sources. For example, books, legal encyclopedias, articles in the journal, reports made by academics, etc. You should bear in mind that when composing a paper in most cases, you will have to refer to both categories of legal sources. That's why you should have a clear picture of the citation format differences which AGLC offers for the most commonly used sources.

Guide on How to Cite Primary Sources Following AGLC

As it has already been mentioned, the primary sources in use here are cases and legislation. Let's have a closer look at the rules intended to be applied when citing cases. What are cases? A case can be defined as a court decision. All decisions are divided into those that are published in authorized and unauthorized series. If you have used authorized reports for your law paper, then you are expected to cite them in a certain order, including the necessary details that are required in accordance with the standard guide.

The most commonly used reports from this category include Federal Court Reports. If you are wondering how to cite them in an appropriate way, have a look at the structure you should stick to:

  • Write the section names.
  • Mention the date (the year is sufficient).
  • Include the volume number.
  • Provide the abbreviation of the report.
  • Give the number of the page you have used (you can be more exact and give even the number of the cited paragraph if possible).

For example, consider The Official Law Reports (2009) 210 OLR 215. If you are going to cite judgments that haven't been published (commonly referred to as “unreported judgments”), you should format the source like this example suggests: party names, year, court abbreviation, judgment №, full date. B v Lloyd [2015] WBCA 3 (7 May 2015).

How You Should Cite Secondary Law Sources Taking into Account the AGLC

There are a lot of secondary information sources which can be used by a student studying law. Most college and university students give preference to journal articles, books, encyclopedias, and websites. Internet resources are the most commonly used because many students are short of time to look for other resources. If you have found the relevant information in one of the mentioned sources and want to include it in your piece of writing, we recommend that you examine the Australian Guide to Legal Citation’s suggestions for formatting it in the right way.

Books: There is a standard guide on citing books, which commands you to include the following information: the author's name, the book title, the publication details, and the cited page or paragraph. If you are going to cite an edited book, use the following example: Roberts, John, Brown G., Peterson, The Intellectual Property Law (Princeton University Press, 2015). What if you want to cite a particular paragraph? In this case, the format will differ a bit. Consider this example: Smith, G., “The Intellectual Property Law,” Roberts and Daly (eds), Consequences of Stealing Intellectual Property (Lawbook, 3d ed, 2014), 10.

Articles: Journal articles are also commonly used by law students. If you are going to cite a journal article, be sure that you are aware of relevant citation regulations provided by the AGLC. When you cite an article, you are supposed to give such details as the author's name, article title, year of the publication, volume, title of the journal, Chicago cited page.

There are three different types of articles: those with volumes still in print, those with discontinued volumes, and those which haven't been printed and can be found only on the Internet. Take this into account when citing an article used for your work. Study the examples below. Each of them corresponds to the regulations of the standard Australian guide.

An article with continuing volumes: Gibson, Melanie, “The Boundaries of the Law” (2017) 13(3) Internet Bulletin 55.

An article with discontinued volumes: Roberts, Matthew, “Which Parliamentary Privileges do Judges Have?” [2015] Public Law 620

Internet journal article: “Sentencing Guidelines for Taxpayers Convicted of FBAR Violations” (2018)( <>

If you are especially attentive, you likely noticed that the year of each kind of article has been cited in either square or round brackets. Even such a small error is considered a mistake when formatting paper resources. Bear this in mind when considering their differences.

Legal encyclopedias: When citing an encyclopedia, look for the following information: the publisher's name, title, date (either the date of its publication or the date when it has been updated), № of the particular chapter and paragraph used. It should look like this: Nexis, Federal Laws of Australia, (15 April 2010) vol 15 500 “Taxation Regulations” [300-900]

Things to Keep in Mind When You Provide Bibliographies

Every paper written in an appropriate way should end with a list of references. Some students forget that just including a list of all resources used without following a certain structure is not permissible. The third edition of the AGLC provides helpful guidelines on how to format bibliographies. Check it out before you get started to ensure you will know how to meet the standard requirements.

If you have any doubts as to whether you have the necessary knowledge for organizing references, keep in mind that the only correct way is to place them in alphabetical order. Sounds easy, doesn't it? If you have used many books, articles, etc. for your law assignment in college or university, the process of organizing resources is often rather time-consuming.

You need to be attentive so as not to make a mistake, such as a misplaced comma, brackets, and other small errors which still manage to play a significant role. When working on your bibliographies, you should make a list of books, cases, etc. which all have the same subheadings. For example, write “Articles” and place those sources which refer to this category. Do the same with books, legislation, reports, etc.

Don't think that the Australian Guide to Legal Citation has been designed with the aim to make the life of students more complicated. Its main goal is to standardize citation regulations and to provide an opportunity to use various legal resources for writing academic essays and all other types of papers without being accused of plagiarism. If you follow this guide, you will see that the systematic approach to organizing different types of works is both very effective and convenient.

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