The Canadian Guide to Uniform Legal Citation, more commonly known as the McGill Guide, is the most common style guide used in law for citing references. Most faculty in Law & Legal Studies prefer this style, but make sure you always check with them first!
The McGill Guide uses footnotes or endnotes (not in-text citation), as well as a bibliography of all works cited at the end of the research paper.
While the guide itself is not available online, learn how to cite the most common types of documents using uniform legal citation style by consulting our abbreviated guide here.
Note that this resource is a guide — not the authoritative manual — based on the 9th edition of the McGill Guide. If you don't know how to cite a particular item or you are citing an item not found in this guide, consult the print edition in the library, or contact us for help.
This guide provides an overview of the most recent McGill Guide, the 9th ed (2018).
It is important to provide proper citation to sources used when writing academic papers. Most academic papers in law require the use of numbered footnotes or endnotes for citation purposes. Footnotes are listed at the bottom of each page, while endnotes appear at the end of the paper. The term "note" will be used in this guide to refer to both footnotes and endnotes.
A footnote/endnote normally contains a citation for a given source or additional information about a point made in the text. In either case, a superscript number in the text identifies each note, matching the note number that appears at the bottom of the page or at the end of the paper. Typically the note is indicated at the end of the sentence or immediately after a quotation, as appropriate.
The first time you cite a work in your paper, you should provide a complete citation for the work in a footnote or endnote. This complete citation will be listed again in your bibliography - see that section for more detailed rules. Subsequent citations may use ibid or supra. See the McGill Guide at E-12 to E-13.
Ibid: Abbreviation for Latin word ibidem, meaning "in the same place". Use ibid when referring to the same source as in the immediately preceding reference. Ibid may be used after a supra, or after another ibid.
Supra: Latin word meaning "above". Use supra when referring to a source for which you have already provided a full citation in an earlier note (but not the one immediately prior, in which case you would use ibid).
|1. R v Sharpe, 2001 SCC 2 at para 25 [Sharpe].|
|2. Ibid at para 26.|
|3. Sanjeev Anand, "A Case for Upholding the Child Pornography Law" (1999) 25 CR (5th) 312.|
|4. Sharpe, supra note 1 at para 26.|
|5. Anand, supra note 3 at 313.|
Short forms: Provide a short form for a source if you will be referencing it multiple times, particularly if the source is longer than three words (see notes 1 and 4 above). Place the short form of the source in square brackets at the end of the first note for the source, as in note 1 above. For books and articles, simply use the author's last name for subsequent references (see note 5), unless you have multiple sources by the same author, in which case a short form will be useful.
Pinpoint citation: To properly credit other sources, it is often necessary to identify the precise page or paragraph number of the source you are relying on. This is called a pinpoint. Notes 1, 2, and 4 above demonstrate a pinpoint paragraph ("at para ##"), while note 5 demonstrates a pinpoint page ("at ##"). Note "para" is used for paragraph, but nothing is written prior to the pinpoint page.
Avoiding repetition: It is not necessary to repeat information provided in the text in the citation. For example, if the name of the case being cited is provided in the text of your paper, do not repeat the name in the citation.
Bills: Laws are first presented for consideration by the legislature in the form of bills. These bills must be debated and then approved by the legislature, as well as receive royal assent, before becoming enforceable statutes.
Number, | Title, | Session, | Legislature, | Year, | Clause Pinpoint.
Bill C-32, An Act to Amend the Copyright Act, 2nd Sess, 35th Parl, 1997, cl 15(1)(a).
Number, | Title, | Session, | Legislature, | Provincial Jurisdiction, | Year, | Clause Pinpoint.
Bill 139, An Act to Make April 21 Climate Change Awareness Day, 2nd Sess, 38th Leg, Ontario, 2006, cl 3.
Statutes: Once a bill has received necessary legislative approval and royal assent, it becomes a statutes. Statutes are first collected in annual volumes. Periodically, all the statutes in a particular jurisdiction (including all amendments) are collected in a collection of statutes known as the revised statutes.
Title, | Statute Volume | Jurisdiction | Year, | Chapter, | other indexing elements, | (session or supplement), | pinpoint.
Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, SC 2000, c 5.
Criminal Code, RSC 1985, c C-46, s 319.
Electronic versions: Federal and provincial governments now publish their statutes electronically on government websites, most of which are official versions. Citations still use the print format, however (ie, you don't have to add the URL to the citation). For more information, see 2.1.3 of the McGill Guide (E-21 to E-27).
For more information on citing jurisprudence, see chapter 3 of the McGill Guide.
Jurisprudence or case law: These are the written reasons for a judge or decision-maker's decision once a case has been heard. Most cases will have a decision, unless under a publication ban for some reason, or if the case was tried by jury. We used to only have access to cases that were published in case law reporters (see below for more detail), but now both published and unpublished cases are available online.
Style of Cause, | main citation | pinpoint, | parallel citation | [short form].
R v Sharpe, 2001 SCC 2 at para 25 [Sharpe].
R v Oakes,  1 SCR 103 at paras 32-34, 26 DLR (4th) 200 [Oakes].
Neutral citations: Most courts now publish their decisions with a neutral citation indicating the year of the decision, the court, and a decision number. When available, a neutral citation should always be the main (first) citation. List it right after the name of the case (style of cause); eg, 2001 SCC 2 = neutral citation for the Supreme Court of Canada's decision in the Sharpe case listed above.
Parallel citations: A parallel citation is simply a second place you can find a reported case. This is less crucial now that most cases are easily accessible online. Include one only if there is no neutral citation available, as in the Oakes example above. See 3.1 of the McGill Guide for more information.
Case law reporters: In addition to being available online, judicial decisions are also often collected and published in edited case law reporters, organized either by yearly volumes or in series. For example, the Supreme Court Reports (SCR) are organized into yearly volumes, where every year, the volume numbering starts again at 1, so you need to note the year (in brackets [ ]) in addition to the volume number. The Dominion Law Reports (DLR) are organized according to series, where the volume numbering does not restart at 1 every year. The format for citing these two types of case law reporter is demonstrated in the Oakes case above - note in particular the use of brackets [ ] versus parentheses ( ). If you need to know the year of the decision in order to find the right volume, brackets [ ] are likely needed, and listing the year in that case is not optional (even if it means you have to repeat the year more than once).
When citing journal articles, include the name of the author as it appears on the first page of the article. In addition, use the abbreviation for the name of the journal in which the article is published. A list of law journal abbreviations can be found in Appendix D of the McGill Guide, or you can use the Cardiff Index to Legal Abbreviations. For non-law journals, best practice is to write the name out in full (see pages E-84 to E-85 of the McGill Guide). Finally, if you used a database to retrieve the full text of the article, you can optionally include this information at the end. Common law databases include LexisAdvance Quicklaw (QL) and WestlawNext Canada (WL Can).
Author, | "Title of Article" | (Year) | Volume: | Issue | abbreviated Journal Title | First Page | Pinpoint | (Database Service, if applicable).
Journal articles with one author:
David M Tanovich, "E-Racing Racial Profiling" (2004) 41 Alta L Rev 905 (QL).
Journal article with additional authors:
Rachel Cox & Karen Messing, "Legal and Biological Perspectives on Employment Testing for Physical Abilities: A Post-Meiorin Review" (2006) 24 Windsor YB Access Just 23.
Rafael La Porta et al, "Law and Finance" (1998) 106:6 Journal of Political Economy 1113 at 1152.
Use "et al" (like in the La Porta example above) as soon as you have more than three authors.
Author (as name appears on title page), | Title, | edition | (Place of publication: | Publisher, | Year).
Books with a single author:
LW Sumner, The Hateful and the Obscene: Studies in the Limits of Free Expression (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2004).
Books with additional authors:
Patrick Fitzgerald, Barry Wright & Vincent Kazmierski, Looking at Law: Canada's Legal System, 6th ed (Toronto: LexisNexis, 2010).
Use "et al" as soon as you have more than three authors: eg, CJC Sampford et al, Retrospectivity and the Rule of Law (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006).
Essay in an edited collection:
Author, | "Title of Essay" | in Editor Name(s), | ed(s), | Title, | edition | (Place of publication: | Publisher, | Year) First Page.
Cathy Caruth, "The Claims of the Dead: History, Haunted Property and the Law" in Austin Sarat et al, eds, Law's Madness (Michigan: University of Michigan Press, 2003) 119.
When citing newspaper articles, cite to the electronic database or the online source where you obtained the article.
Author, | "Title of Article", | Newspaper | (Date) | Page | (Database Service, if applicable) OR online: <URL>.
Rod Mickleburgh & Gloria Gallaway, "Storm brews over drug strategy", The Globe & Mail (15 January 2007) A1 (Lexis).
Naomi Wolf, "Take the Shame Out of Rape", The Guardian (25 November 2005), online: <www.guardian.co.uk>.
For newspapers found online, use a permalink or DOI if one is available. If not, link to the newspaper's top page (as in the Wolf example above). For more information about online sources, see Citing Online Sources.
Government documents include diverse sources ranging from legislative debates, reports from Parliamentary committees, and documents and reports from other bodies such as Officers of Parliament, Commissions of Inquiry, and government departments. Parliamentary documents are published by a legislative body (either federal, provincial, or territorial); all others are non-Parliamentary. See chapter 4 of the McGill Guide.
Jurisdiction (if a province), | Legislature, | Title, | Legislative Session, | Volume | Number | (Date) | Pinpoint | (Speaker).
House of Commons Debates, 37-1, No 64 (17 May 2001) at 4175 (Hon Elinor Caplan).
Jurisdiction, | Issuing Body, | Title, | (Type of document) | (Publication Information).
Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, Protecting Your Privacy on the Internet: Canada's New Privacy Laws (Fact Sheet) (Ottawa: Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, 2004).
International documents include a wide range of materials from inter-governmental bodies such as the UN, the WTO, and the European Union, case law from international courts such as the International Court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights, and bilateral and multilateral treaties. See Chapter 5 of the McGill Guide for more information, as well as the Foreign & International Law and United Nations subject guides.
Treaties and UN Documents: While most treaties and UN documents can now be found online, it is preferable to cite to the print version. Most of the needed information should be listed on the website, however. You can include an optional reference to the electronic source.
Treaty Name, | Parties (if applicable), | Date of Signature, | Treaty Series Reference | Pinpoint | (Date of Entry into Force | other information).
Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, 4 November 1950, 213 UNTS 221 at 223 (entered into force 3 September 1953).
Author (if applicable), | Title, | UN Body Res or Dec Number, | UN Body's acronym and OR, | Session Number or Calendar year, | Supp Number, | UN Doc Number (Calendar Year) | First Page | Pinpoint.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, GA Res 217A (III), UNGAOR, 3rd Sess, Supp No 13, UN Doc A/810 (1948) 71.
For materials found solely or primarily online, including websites, blogs, social media, and podcasts, see s 6.9 of the McGill Guide.
For sources available in both print and electronic form, consult the relevant section of the guide (eg, jurisprudence in s 3.8, newspapers in s 6.13), and add information about the online source at the end of the traditional citation format. Information about online sources (direct URLs, archived URLs, and Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs)) can be found in s 1.6 of the McGill Guide.
This guide demonstrates the style for footnotes and endnotes. In most cases, however, you will also be expected to include a bibliography at the end of your paper, in addition to your foot/endnotes. The bibliography should be a list of all sources you used in preparing your paper, whether or not you actually directly cited them, arranged alphabetically by the author's name (when available).
You may wish to further organize your bibliography according to categories of sources; eg, jurisprudence, legislation, government documents, international documents, secondary sources. The style is largely the same as that for foot/endnotes, with the key difference being that where there is an author, you should list the author's last name first. If there are multiple authors, you only need to reverse the name of the first author. Any pinpoints are omitted in the bibliography.
Patrick Fitzgerald, Barry Wright & Vincent Kazmierski, Looking at Law: Canada’s Legal System, 6th ed (Toronto: LexisNexis, 2010).
Fitzgerald, Patrick, Barry Wright & Vincent Kazmierski, Looking at Law: Canada's Legal System, 6th ed (Toronto: LexisNexis, 2010).
For in-depth instructions on creating a bibliography, see pages E-3 to E-4 of the McGill Guide.