An important aspect of Legal Research and Writing is knowing how to use the Bluebook. You may be familiar with citation styles, such as MLA, APA, or Chicago. The Bluebook is the citation format of the law, and it is all outlined in–you guessed it–the Bluebook. Giving proper credit to other researchers is critical, as is sticking to the standard used around the legal world. But how are you supposed to parse out 500+ pages of information? Hopefully, this guide can help you understand a bit of how to use the Bluebook to make quick and correct citations.
The Bluebook is divided into three sections: The Bluepages, Rules (or sometimes called the Whitepages), and Tables. Each of the sections is important in their own ways. This blog will go over a bit of what is in each section and how to use it to the best of your abilities.
The first few sections are called the Bluepages. These are rules for citing in court documents. These may be your point of reference in an internship or clerkship. Your teachers may also have you use this citation style while writing a court document paper, like an appellate brief. This section is full of shorter guides on how to cite different sources, as well as giving several abbreviations to use in court.
The first few sections in the Whitepages are all about the structure and format of your citations. Here you will find things like capitalization, short citation forms, typefaces, etc. These rules set a framework under which the rest of the rules can work. For example, rule 15.3 (book titles) says to “Cite the full main title as it appears on the title page, but capitalize according to rule 8.” While it is not necessary to know the entire bluebook inside and out, since you can always pull it out to check a particular citation style, having a solid grasp of these fundamental rules will help tremendously in avoiding small mistakes.
This is the meat of the bluebook and where you will spend most of your time while making citations. This section gives the citation style for any source you will want to put into your paper. It has rules for cases, statutes, legislative materials, academic articles, online blogs, and more. While this section is very dense, don’t be overwhelmed! It is actually quite simple. You just need to turn to the rule that applies to whatever source you have. Citing a case? Turn to rule 10. These sections have example citations at the start, as well as explanations for each of the elements that go into a citation. Make sure you read all the subsections, as they will give rules to follow and potential pitfalls to avoid for every step of the citation. As long as you follow these rules, you should be able to avoid any mistakes while making citations.
The last section is full of tables of abbreviations. One of the first things you will notice about legal citation is that there are A LOT of abbreviations. You abbreviate court names, names of reporters, even several common words. Most of your time here will be in T1, which gives abbreviations of all reporters, federal and state courts, as well as anything else that a state might report, such as session laws or administrative compilations. When you find a source involving judicial or legislative information, come here to know how it is correctly cited. T2 does the same thing, but for foreign jurisdictions. The rest of the sections are smaller lists of abbreviations that you will use in citations. If you come across a common legal word, chances are that it has an abbreviation here.
The Bluebook also has a few quick reference sections. There is an index and table of contents (just like most other resource books) that can point you to a page number if you know what you are looking for. There are also quick reference guides on the first and last pages of the book. These give quick examples that you can look at in case you forget something or want to model yourself off a correct citation.
Hopefully, this guide was helpful in demonstrating the different sections of the Bluebook. Now, you know where to go when you have a certain question. In addition to this guide, there are several practice problems that you can work through in LexisNexis. These can help familiarize yourself with the Bluebook, so you don’t have to spend as much time working on citations while you are writing your papers. The link to the page is:
Alternatively, you can just go to the dropdown box in Lexis Advance and select “LexisNexis Interactive Citation Workstation.” These tools will help you go from a novice legal writer to a citation master!
Written by: Kyle Wilson (2L)