The Bluebook seems daunting, with its 523 pages of rules. This page provides tips to make navigating those rules a little easier. And as always, if you have any questions, feel free to visit us at the Research Help Desk, call us at (714) 628-2548, or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Bluebook's index is your friend! Don't know how to cite a source? Look for it in the index at the very back of the book. And remember, whenever using indexes, use broad language. For instance, if you are looking up how to cite a complaint, you will not find anything by searching for that specific term. A complaint is a type of brief; searching for "brief" in the index will lead you to the entry for "Briefs and records, citation of," which will lead you to the rule you are looking for.
Sometimes the Bluebook doesn't provide clear instruction on how to cite a source. In this instance, the Bluebook directs you to "try to locate an analogous type of authority that is discussed and use that citation form as a model." In my experience, Rule 15, which covers "Books, Reports, and Other Nonperiodic Materials," is a good fall-back for obscure, one-off documents, when no other rule is applicable. If you're still confused, feel free to search for the title of the source in the law journal databases in Westlaw or Lexis Advance. This will show you how other journals have cited the source. If you can find a citation in the Columbia Law Review, the Harvard Law Review, the University of Pennsylvania Law Review, or the Yale Law Journal, even better - they're the editors of the Bluebook!
Did you know that the majority of the Bluebook is taken up by tables rather than substantive rules? Some of these tables are extremely helpful, and you should become familiar with them.
T1 - Detailed information on how to cite governmental materials for the federal government and the fifty states.
T6 - Abbreviations of words in case names and institutional authors. Fun fact: "telephone" and "telegraph" are abbreviated the same way.
T7 - Abbreviations for court names to be used in citing cases.
T10 - Abbreviations of geographical entities, including the fifty U.S. states, selected U.S. cities, U.S. territories, Canadian provinces and territories, Australian states, and foreign countries.
T13 - Abbreviations of common words appearing in legal periodical titles.
Rule 1.2 explains how and when each introductory signal should be used. Familiarize yourself with this rule, because authors misuse signals all the time. Here are a few common mistakes:
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