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Bluebook Citation 101 -- Academic Format

If writing a scholarly article, you will need to provide correct attribution to your sources. This guide provides basic information on Bluebook citation in the scholarly format. Students writing seminar papers will find this guide invaluable.


Rules 1.2 and 1.3 of The Bluebook (21st ed. 2020) covers the use of signals. Signals are used in front of citations to alert the reader as to how that citation is being used. They can be quite confusing!

Do not use a signal with a citation when you have directly borrowed someone else’s words or have paraphrased her words or ideas.

Signals can also be used as verbs in text.

Signals Used for Supportive Citations

  • E.g., – string cites, multiple examples but not an exhaustive list. Here are a few examples to illustrate /support my statement.  You can combine this with other signals such as See.
  •  Accord – 2 or more in agreement.The signal accord comes after another citation that supports the proposition. The first citation here directly supports the statement and the accord signal and second citation indicates another source that supports it. A common use of this signal is to show that two different jurisdictions agree.
  •  See – clearly supports (obviously follows but not directly stated). Slightly less direct support than no signal.
  •  See also – additional material supporting the proposition. Parenthetical explanation is encouraged.

Signals Used for Comparative Citations

  • Cf. – compare (different but analogous – it doesn’t exactly support your statement but it is close). Parenthetical explanation encouraged.
  •  Compare -- To actually compare two authorities directly. You must use “with,” and another citation  with this signal.  Parenthetical explanation encouraged.

Signals Used for Contradictory Citations

  • Contra –  directly states the contrary. The opposite of using no signal at all
  • But See – authority supports proposition contrary to main proposition
  •  But cf. – analogous to the contrary of the main proposition. Parenthetical strongly encouraged.

Signals Used for Citation to Background Material

See generally – Background. Parenthetical explanation encouraged.

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