Skip to main content
Li Ka Shing Library

How do I Avoid Committing Plagiarism in My Legal Writing: Citing


Citing is "attributing the work that belongs to someone else and which you are using in your essays and presentations".

Source: Lisa Webley, Legal Writing (Routledge, 3rd Edition, 2013)

Note: Citing is required even if you have paraphrased someone else's words.

Why is citing important

  • Authority: Citations are needed to tell the reader the authority which buttress your assertions about the law. Supporting authority is important for legal analysis and powerful arguments.
  • Avoiding plagiarism: If you do not cite correctly, you may be found guilty of plagiarising, which can result in grave repercussions. A citation is needed to disclaim credit for the words and ideas created by someone else.

Source: Linda Edwards, Legal Writing and Analysis (Wolters Kluwer, 3rd Edition, 2011) at p 247

When to use citations

A.   When you assert a legal principle

Example: The duty to mitigate limits the amount of damages that can be claimed by requiring an aggrieved party to act reasonably to mitigate its loss consequent on the defaulting party's breach (The "Asia Star" [2010] 2 SLR 1154).

B.   When you refer to or describe the content of an authority

Example: Selvam JC found that the three limbs were to be read disjunctively, meaning that a caveatee who satisfies any one of the three limbs can obtain compensation (Tan Soo Leng David v Wee, Satku & Kumar Pte Ltd [1993] 3 SLR 569).

C.    When you quote

Example: The chain of causation was broken because the act constituted "a wholly independent cause of the damage that the intervening conduct may be termed a novus actus interveniens" (TV Media Pte Ltd v De Cruz Andrea Heidi and another appeal [2004] 3 SLR(R) 543).

Source: Linda Edwards, Legal Writing and Analysis (Wolters Kluwer, 3rd Edition, 2011) at p 247

Bibliographies vs. Footnotes/ Endnotes

Bibliography is "used at the end of a piece of legal writing. It sets out all the sources to which you personally referred".

Footnotes "appear at the bottom of each page and they contain the sources you referred to".

Endnotes are "similar to footnotes but they all appear at the end of the piece of legal writing, although they are numbered in the text in ways similar to footnotes".

The style of referencing (whether by using a bibliography or footnotes/ endnotes) will depend on your lecturer. Most importantly, your work must be referenced fully. If ever in doubt, over-reference is always better than under-reference. During your research phase, keep track of your sources and remember to include the page numbers so that your pinpoint citations will be a breeze!

Source: Lisa Webley, Legal Writing (Routledge, 3rd Edition, 2013) at p 115

The use of electronic resources must comply with the Appropriate Use of Electronic Resources Policy and Singapore Management University Acceptable Use Policy