Referencing and formatting guidelines for your law dissertation.

law dissertation
law dissertation

Referencing and formatting are important in any dissertation. A good dissertation must abide by the standard academic referencing and formatting guidelines. Similarly, a law dissertation must have a proper format. Moreover, the referencing of the law dissertation must be according to the standard academic conventions. This article will guide you about the referencing and formatting for your law dissertation.

What is the formatting structure of a law dissertation?

Every university has different requirements and formatting structures for a law dissertation. But the differences are quite minimal, and every law dissertation follows a general framework. Here is the formatting structure of a law dissertation:

Title Page

The first thing in writing a law dissertation is the title page. The title page should be brief and concise. You will have to provide the following details on the title page:

  • Title of your dissertation
  • Your Full Name
  • Name of Your Department
  • Name of Your University
  • Degree Program
  • Date of Submission
  • Roll Number
  • Name of Your Supervisor

A title page is also synonymous with the cover page. Some universities provide a sample cover page, and you have to provide the necessary information.


This section includes acknowledging your professors and supervisor who helped you write your law dissertation. Generally, it is optional to include the acknowledgements section, but it demonstrates academic professionalism. It is important to remember that you do not have to acknowledge everyone, like friends or family. You should only mention a couple of people who helped you in the research process.

Abstract or Executive Summary

The summary is between 200 and 350 words in which you summarise the key points of your research. You will have to briefly state the aims and objectives and your research questions and research problem. Also, you will have to briefly mention the research methodology, data collection and evaluation methods. Moreover, you will have to provide the key findings and conclusion of your law dissertation. It is important to remember that a summary is just a synopsis of your dissertation. There is no need to go into the extra details in this section.

Table of Contents

This section will provide a list of your dissertation’s chapters, sub-sections, and page numbers. It also includes bibliography and appendices headings. You can generate the table of contents in MS Word automatically.

List of Abbreviations

If you have used any abbreviations or acronyms in your law dissertation, you will provide a list of them in this section.

List of Figures and Tables

This section includes the list of tables and figures where appropriate. You will have to list down the figures and tables in numerical order.

Table of Case Law

When limited case laws are cited, it may be more acceptable to refer to the cases towards the conclusion as part of the bibliography. If you have more than one case law, it is appropriate to create a separate table.


Legal language is technical, and therefore you will have to provide the definitions of key terminologies you have used in your law dissertation.


In the introduction section, you will have to provide the topic’s purpose, relevance and background study. You will have to justify and contextualise your research in light of the background study. You will explain your research problem, research questions and aims and objectives of the study. You will have to explain the significance of your research and provide an outline of the rest of the dissertation.

Literature Review

It includes the following things:

  • Examining the existing literature on the selected topic
  • Assess literature gaps using publications and journal articles as sources.
  • Explain how your research fits into the existing body of knowledge.
  • What contribution will your research make?
  • Don’t rehash what’s already been said in the literature.
  • Create logical reasons to back up your findings.
  • What is the general conceptual or methodological approach you have used in your research?


This section includes the following details:

  • What method will you use to do your research?
  • What is the structure of your study?
  • Why did you opt for this particular study method?

Results & Discussion Section

In this section, you will have to present the key findings of your law dissertation. It includes the following:

  • In-depth analysis of the results
  • Using your research questions, discuss the relevance and significance of the results.
  • Your result’s potential implications
  • Emphasise the limits of your findings.


The conclusion section must provide the following details:

  • Make a clear connection between your conclusion and the primary research questions.
  • Conclude the dissertation and evaluate the most important findings and outcomes.
  • Suggestions for future research
  • Explain the significance of your study and the ramifications of your significant results on the relevant topic

What referencing styles can you use for your law dissertation?

Law dissertations generally follow the OSCOLA citation style. OSCOLA stands for Oxford Standard for the Citation of legal authorities. This law referencing system was established by Oxford University. Post-graduate law students have to follow this citation style for a law dissertation. You have to put the footnotes at the end of the page for in-text citations and a bibliography at the end of the paper. Using the references option, you can insert a footnote in the MS Word document. You will have to select “References” and choose “Insert footnote” in front of the text you want to cite. Here are some general rules of citations for a law dissertation:


  • Use double quotation marks to indicate the quoted text and insert the page number.
  • Quotations that are more than three lines are indented as separate paragraphs. There is no need to include quotation marks.


Insert the footnote after the punctuation mark, such as comma and period. If you repeat the same source, you can use Ibid to cite that source again.

Author’s Name

  • Provide the last name of the author at the end of the sentence
  • Separate two or more citations with semicolons
  • Write the name of the author as it appears in the publication.


Once you complete your law dissertation, you will have to thoroughly review the formatting and referencing. It is important to ensure that you follow the proper academic standards for referencing and formatting. You can follow the guidelines mentioned above for formatting and referencing your law dissertation.

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