Bluebook Guide

Bluebook Cover

Introduction

I have not read the nineteenth edition. I have dipped into it, much as one might dip one's toes in a pail of freezing water. I am put in mind of Mr. Kurtz's dying words in Heart of Darkness—'The horror! The horror!'—and am tempted to end there."

Judge Richard Posner

The Bluebook. Few books cause law students as much dread, pain, anger and frustration as the Bluebook.

Now in its 19th edition and more than an inch thick, the 513-page Bluebook is the style manual for citing to legal documents within the United States. It is large, unwieldy, cryptic -- and it is an essential book that every lawyer should know how to use.

Most of the Bluebook, however, is irrelevant for most people who create legal documents. You can ignore more than two-thirds of the book if all you need to do is to cite cases and statutes — which covers most of the first year of law school, and a lot of litigation. In fact, if you're dealing only with cases, litigation documents and laws, you might be able to find the answer to your question using the cheat sheet on the inside back cover.

The purpose of this Guide is to introduce concepts of legal citation and Bluebook usage to beginning law students.

Intended Audience

This Guide is written for Georgetown University Law Center students who are enrolled in the school's Legal Research and Writing (J.D. program) and U.S. Legal Discourse (LL.M. program) classes. This Guide explains the organization and layout of the Bluebook, its use in theory and in practice, and how to cite the most common legal materials, including cases, statutes and treatises. The Guide also reviews how to cite electronic materials.

This Guide does not include explanations on how to cite administrative materials, legislative history resources, international resources, or foreign resources.

Georgetown University Law Center faculty members, faculty research assistants, upper-class students, law journal members and other members of the Law Center community who have citation questions or questions about this guide should contact the Reference Desk at (202) 662-9140.

Guide Organization

The rest of this Guide is organized in the following manner:

  • About the Bluebook: Basic information about the Bluebook, including where to find copies in the Library.
  • Bluebook Layout: A tour through the most important Bluebook sections for beginning law students.
  • Citing Cases: How to cite federal and state cases.
  • Citing Statutes: How to cite federal and state statutes, and how to use the Bluebook's blue pages to help you cite and find your statute.
  • Citing Other Resources: Basic citation formats for books and treatises, constitutions, the judicial record and Internet resources.
  • Tidbits: Important notes about the Bluebook that beginning students should know, including a summary of underlining.