The Bluebook can seem daunting, with hundreds of 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 contact us at the Law Library Research Desk ((714) 628-2548 or 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." Often, 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+. 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? Tables are extremely helpful, and you should become familiar with them. For example, T2 includes Foreign Jurisdictions, and is only available online.
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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