Style Request: Oscola

  • @afonsodasilva, thanks. Just a small request: when you make any future updates, could you start from the most recent version available at ? I've made some small changes to the style metadata, so I prefer if you would work from our version.
  • Hi!
    I'm pretty excited about having found the OSCOLA citation style.
    Thanks a lot!

    As I am right in the middle of a paper I have to decide whether to overhaul everything or simply start using the citation style next time around.
    Is there any chance, someone could post samples? Ie. how do the individual entry types look like as citation or in a bibliography. What entry types does the style use?
    My first brief trials looked different to what I expected (Bibliography similar to citation, for instance). So, I might have to take a closer look also into CSL - which would affect my decision greatly.

    Thanks in advance!
  • Example for my earlier post:
    I created a document, which I sourced online.
    In Zotero I noted the author, title, date, URL and last accessed.
    But URL and last accessed won't show up in the bibliography... :-(
  • On URLs - see fbennetts comment at the top of the page (3rd from the top) that still applies. More generally, if you want accurate legal citations, you should probably work with his (fbennett's) fork at
  • Is there a way of adding the Ibid and Ob cite functions to OSCLA while taking away the n_ function?
  • edited October 26, 2012
    Note that a fully built OSCOLA version is available for use with fbennett's MLZ version of Zotero
    for serious legal citations I'd go with that instead of trying to make regular Zotero work. (Though yes, adding ibid and op cit would be possible with regular Zotero)

    edit: link fixed - thanks Rintze.
  • I wish they didn't look so similar... thanks, fixed.
  • Can I check where we are with the vanilla OSCOLA? I note that there are two on Zotero - one that says 'no n_' and 'no ibid'. It is not clear what the real difference is. Have there been any updates to the vanilla style? Does it now number the references automatically? Filling in the numbers subsequently was a real pain.

    I have been using the MLZ OSCOLA style with vanilla Zotero. I don't think it is supposed to work, but it does work well and is a very well written style (complete with automatic references back - no 'n_'s to complete later).

    Would there be a way of combining the best parts of these styles somehow?
  • no work has been done on vanilla OSCOLA. I had a brief look at just using the MLZ versino and stripping MLZ-specific content, but there is just too much, so combining is a ton of work.
    Obviously we'll accept OSCOLA improvements if someone submits them, but I won't do any work on the style (because a) it's a ton of work and b) I think people should just use MLZ) unless someone wants to pay me for it. (that's not meant rhetorically - the folks who wanted a vanilla AGLC version did pay me for it).
  • @adamsmith

    Thanks very much for the update. Can I ask how do you think it would cost for you to write it? Maybe we could collect some contributions?
  • I've certainly no objections to Sebastian earning something on the side for work on OSCOLA, but I'm curious why just using MLZ is not an option?

    I can think of a couple of potential reasons (concern over support, unavailability of Standalone, smaller user base): which has been most determinative for you?
  • Hi Frank, I have tended to use MLZ in the past due to the original version of your ODF scan which provided massive functionality that was not then available in Vanilla. Now I have switched back to Vanilla as the ODF facility is now fairly robustly implemented there. The MLZ OSCOLA implementation for MLZ Zotero is beautifully written and works like a dream. However, I am a little nervous about backwards compatibility of my databases, so would prefer to stick to Vanilla if at all possible. Hence my desire to see a well functioning version of OSCOLA for Vanilla Zotero.
  • As a corollary to what Frank says, I'm a big supporter of MLZ, which is why I always suggest people doing legal or multilingual work just switch. Frank will be able to say more, but my understanding is that MLZ and Zotero are Sync (though no longer database) compatible.

    For the style, I'd say $200 to fix up & test the existing OSCOLA style or $300 to port the MLZ version back to Zotero. I'm not sure to what degree doing the latter is worth it. Let me know if you're interested, my e-mail is at the bottom of this blog post:
  • A much more complete version of OSCOLA for Zotero is now in the repository at: (the first style)

    There are still shortcomings, mainly due to the current limitations of vanilla Zotero.

    However, it would be helpful if users interested in using or developing this style further would download and test it, and post any errors / comments here.
  • I should add, sincere thanks to Sebastian for his speedy and excellent work on this.
  • I've also created a group:
    to demonstrate data entry for various item types. The items are those used in the OSCOLA guide, so it should be relatively easy to identify what is what.
  • Excellent work! Two comments from my first minute of testing:

    1) Why are URLs added to all articles, even though they are published in a journal? Even though I have downloaded the articles from Hein/JSTOR etc. it is customary to not cite the URL, but only the paper version (which the Hein/JSTOR version is a scan/imprint of anyways).

    2) Would you make a version without the (n X) and ibid gadgets, and overwrite the older version without (n X) and ibid in the respository? I originally did the modification, but have not updated it. All it takes is, as you probably know, changing a couple of lines. Would much appreciate to have the option without maintining my own local modification.
  • 1) Zotero will, by default, only print the URLs for articles that don't have page ranges (which is a pretty good proxy for also appearing in print). This is toggled by the box "include URLs" under Cite--> Styles in the Zotero preferences - you want that box unchecked.

    2) Yes, but I'll only do this once I'm pretty confident the style is stable. I don't want to implement every fix twice.
  • Brilliant, didn't know of the checkbox. Thanks!

    One more thing: As for the note number (n X), they do not seem to be automatically updating. I have heard that this is impossible with Zotero, so I guess that is the reason. Am I right?
  • the supra numbers should be updating automatically (and do for me) - you may need to click "refresh document" in the Word/LibreOffice plugin. Those would be useless otherwise.
  • I did not get it to work at first, but now it works. Seems like Zotero does not react to the "Refresh" button being pressed if no Zotero activity has taken place since the last update (e.g. if I have only added a footnote containing pure text).
  • I found a slight error in the style when doing supra cites. The style uses too many commas.

    In the OSCOLA manual, the following example of a supra cite is given:
    "1 Robert Stevens, Torts and Rights (OUP 2007) .

    26 Stevens (n 1) 110 ."

    Here is what I see when duing supra cites in Zotero with the updated OSCOLA style:
    ""1 Robert Stevens, Torts and Rights (OUP 2007) .

    26 Stevens, (n 1), 110 ."

    The comma after the author name and after the (n X) are superfluous, and should be removed.
  • I think the bibliography section has a couple of issues.

    (1) Authors should be in the format Surname, initials. It seems currently to give the full forenames. See:

    Dhami, Mandeep K and Peter Ayton, ‘Bailing and Jailing the Fast and Frugal Way’ (2001) 14 Journal of Behavioral Decision Making 141

    OSCOLA says:

    Items in bibliographies take the same form as all other citations in OSCOLA, with
    three exceptions: (1) the author’s surname should precede his or her initial(s), with
    no comma separating them, but a comma after the final initial; (2) only initials
    should be used, and not forenames; and (3) the titles of unattributed works should
    be preceded by a double em-dash . Works should be arranged in alphabetical order
    of author surname, with unattributed works being listed at the beginning of the
    bibliography in alphabetical order of first major word of the title

    (2) Repeated authors should have a double em dash. At present it seems that names are repeated, eg:

    Dennett, Daniel C, ‘Cognitive Wheels: The Frame Problem of AI’ in Zenon Walter Pylyshyn (ed), The Robot’s Dilemma: Frame Problem in Artificial Intelligence (Ablex Publishing Corporation 1987)
    Dennett, Daniel C, The Intentional Stance (MIT Press 1993)

    OSCOLA says:

    If citing several works by the same author in a bibliography, list the author’s works in
    chronological order (starting with the oldest), and in alphabetical order of first major
    word of the title within a single year . After the citation of the first work, replace the 12
    author’s name with a double em-dash

    (3) authors sole works should come before joint works. At present the style is like this:

    Dhami, Mandeep K and Peter Ayton, ‘Bailing and Jailing the Fast and Frugal Way’ (2001) 14 Journal of Behavioral Decision Making 141
    Dhami, Mandeep K, ‘Psychological Models of Professional Decision Making’ (2003) 14 Psychological Science 175


    Alphabetize works by more than one author
    under the first author’s name, but place them after that author’s sole-authored works

    Thanks again for your work on this!
  • ok should all be fixed now, try again:

    Update the style by re-installing. Styles should also update automatically within 24hs for Zotero 4.0+
    In an existing document, you may have to switch to a different style and back for the changes to take effect once the style is updated.
    Any further problems please let us know.
  • Thanks for this fantastic new version - it is great. I use vanilla Zotero and the OSCOLA style, and have found the recent improvements to be wonderful. They make a big difference to my quality of life as a researcher!

    There are still some difficulties with the OSCOLA style in Zotero, however, and it would be great if these could be fixed. I will post these as I go along. For example:

    Oscola has a 'best report' rule, according to which the neutral citation should be given first, followed by the best available law report, such as the All England Reports or the Weekly Law Reports. See, eg:

    Callery v Gray [2001] EWCA Civ 1117, [2001] 1 WLR 2112 [42], [45] (imagine that the case name is in italics for the purposes of this post!)

    My Zotero standalone client does not allow me to save multiple different citations for the one case; there is only one space for the year, report, pinpoint etc. However where a neutral citation is available I need to be able to save both the neutral and the 'best report' citation for each case. Is there a way to fix this?
  • Glad this is useful.
    To answer your question:
    My understanding is that legal scholars refer to this as "parallel citations" and it is not something that can really be done with regular Zotero - MLZ handles this nicely.
    That said, since it does seem like the default entry format in OSCOLA, I implemented it in a hackish way. Please see the way the data is input for Corr v IBC Vehicles Ltd

    which will give you
    Corr v IBC Vehicles Ltd [2008] UKHL 13, [2008] 1 AC 884

    (and then if you add paragraphs as locators something like
    Corr v IBC Vehicles Ltd [2008] UKHL 13, [2008] 1 AC 884 [42].
    unfortunately, multiple paragraphs don't work correctly, you'll have to put something like "42], [45" into the locator field).

    I realize this isn't super-elegant as a solution, but if you don't want to use MLZ that's the best I can do at this time.
  • It's probably not a major concern, but the Zotero metadata for these items will be hard to migrate to other systems (whether MLZ or a future Zotero version with legal support).
  • yeah that's right and it's certainly not ideal. But for people who don't want to use MLZ now, that still means manual changing them only once on migrating, rather than for each citation now.
  • I believe a couple of full stops / periods have crept in:

    11. Steven Pinker, How the Mind Works (W.W. Norton 2009) p 4.
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