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Legal Studies

Resources for law and legal studies coursework and research. This guide does not explain the law or advise you of your legal rights. Contact an attorney for legal advice.

How to Read a Legal Citation

Reading a Case Citation

Cases are published in reporters. A case citation is generally made up of the following parts:

  1. the names of the parties involved in the lawsuit
  2. the volume number of the reporter containing the full text of the case
  3. the abbreviated name of that case reporter
  4. the page number on which the case begins the year the case was decided; and sometimes
  5. the name of the court deciding the case.

Below is an example of a case citation:

Hebb v. Severson, 201 P.2d 156 (Wash. 1948).

In this example, Hebb and Severson are the parties in the case. The case can be found in volume 201 of the Pacific Reporter, Second Series beginning on page 156. The case was decided by the Washington State Supreme Court in 1948.

Resources: Nevers, Shawn. n.d. “Library Guides: Locating Legal Information in Primary and Secondary Resources: #1: How To Read A Legal Citation.” Accessed April 16, 2018.

What Citation Style Do I Use for Law Documents?

Law Documents can be cited in APA, MLA, and Chicago Citation Style Guides. The print guides for these citation styles can be found next to the Information Desk at Waterfield Library.  

Helpful Tips for Looking at the Citation Guides

American Psychology Association (APA) Outlines the citation style for legal materials in the Appendix to Chapter 7 (pp. 216 – 224). 

The Chicago Manual of Style  17th ed., sections 14.269-305 and 15.58 

Modern Language Association (MLA) Familiarize yourself with the guidelines in section 2.1.3, for corporate authors and government authors.

Access Date Tips

Access Date

Works from the web can typically be changed or removed at any time, so while it's optional, the date which you accessed material is often important. This is especially true when there is no date specifying when an item was produced. This date will be added to the end of the entry, e.g. Accessed 11 April  2018.


The format of dates is: Day Month (shortened) Year. E.g. 11 Sept. 2017.

Whether to give the year alone or include a month and day depends on your source: write the full date as you find it there.

If no date is listed, omit it unless you can find that information available in a reliable source.


Capitalize the first letter of every important word in the title. You do not need to capitalize words such as: in, of, or an.

If there is a colon (:) in the title, include what comes after the colon (also known as the subtitle).