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Citation Form for Secondary Sources

Keep two points in mind regarding citing secondary sources. First, secondary sources are not binding authority and thus may be cited only based only on the value of their intellectual, not their legal, authority. They cannot be cited in place of primary sources. Further, secondary sources vary widely in both their quality and the respect accorded to them by the academic and legal communities. The thoughts of a respected scholar writing in a noted law review will almost always be given far more weight than those of a new practitioner writing in a local bar journal. Moreover, it is almost always unacceptable to cite to an American Law Reports annotation or a legal encyclopedia, such as Am. Jur. 2d or C.J.S.


Rule 16 of the Bluebook deals generally with how to cite to periodicals. Rule 15.1.1 must be consulted for information on which authors to include in the citation and how to cite their names. Other information about citing to periodical articles, such as article titles, periodical abbreviations, and page numbers, appears in Rule 16. To some extent, periodical citation format depends on the type of periodical being cited, that is, consecutively paginated or non-consecutively paginated. A periodical is consecutively paginated if the first issue in a particular volume begins with page 1, the second issue picks up the numbering where the first issue left off, and so on. The format for citing articles that appear in consecutively paginated journals appears in Rule 16.3, while the format for citing to non-consecutively paginated periodicals appears in Rule 16.4. Most law reviews are consecutively paginated. Some bar journals and most popular publications are non-consecutively paginated. Table T.14 at the back of the Bluebook gives abbreviations for the names of many commonly cited periodicals. If the periodical you wish to cite is not listed in Table T.14, use the individual word abbreviations listed there and the geographical abbreviations found in Table T.11 to construct an appropriate periodical title abbreviation.

Example of a citation to a consecutively paginated periodical:

  • Akhil Reed Amar & Vikram David Amar, Is the Presidential Succession Law Constitutional?, 48 Stan. L. Rev. 113 (1995).

If this had been a signed, student-written piece, the basic citation form would have been the same, although Rule 16.6.2 mandates that the designation of the piece, such as "Comment," "Note," or "Recent Development" should appear before the title of the work. The title of the article is cited with the original punctuation, if any, included. The title is followed by the volume number, the abbreviation for the publication from Table T.14, the page on which the article begins, and, finally, the year of publication parenthetically noted. The specific issue month (November) and issue number (1) are superfluous information, given that this is a consecutively paginated journal, and are, therefore, not included.


Rule 15 describes both the form of an author's name and which authors to cite for books, including both single and multi-volume works. Rule 15.2 sets forth the form of a book title. The citation forms for the edition, publisher, and date of publication of books are given in Rule 15.4. Pinpoint reference must usually be made to the exact page, section number, and volume (in the case of multi-volume works). See Rules 3.3 and 3.4. Books that are updated with supplements require additional information, which is described in Rules 15.4(e) and 3.2(c). Books organized by sections or paragraphs, in addition to pages, are cited according to Rule 3.4, which states that when citing a source that is organized by sections or paragraphs as well as pages, you should cite to the section or paragraph number. You may include the page number if it would be useful in locating specific matter within the section or paragraph.

Example of a book citation:

  • 14A Charles Alan Wright et al., Federal Practice and Procedure § 3672, at 341 (3d ed. 1998 & Supp. 2003).

While the authors vary from volume to volume of this set, citation is made as they appear on the title page of the volume cited. Even though both the volume and its pocket part are paginated, they are also divided into sections and therefore citation is made to the section number as well as the page number. The edition cited is the third edition of the work and that fact along with the year of publication must be noted in the parenthetical. The language of the section has been augmented and updated in the pocket part, and therefore citation must be made to both the bound volume and the pocket part in the parenthetical. Rule 15.4(a) states that the name of the publisher is included before the date in the parenthetical only if you are citing to an edition by other than the original publisher. In citing to a publisher, you should abbreviate any words in the name of the publisher according to Rule 15.1.3(c).


Rule 12.8.5 sets forth specific information about citing to the Restatements, as well as model codes, and uniform laws. Citation to the Restatements is made not only to the language of the Restatement itself, but also to the official comments and illustrations that follow many of the sections. Rule 3.5 provides additional information about citing to appended material, including comments and illustrations.

Example of a restatement citation:

  • Restatement (Second) of Contracts § 96 cmt. a (1981).

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