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Citing Sources (APA, MLA, ...): Citing Legal Materials

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In legal research, the most widely used citation guide is The Bluebook: A Uniform System of CitationThe Bluebook employs the use of footnotes, as opposed to parenthetical references usually seen in APA and MLA style. 

If you are writing a paper with a lot of references to legal materials such as laws, court cases, and legislative materials, you are strongly advised to consult the Bluebook. 

On the other hand, if you are writing a paper in APA, MLA, or Chicago style, each of them contains a dedicated section on citing legal materials. You are encouraged to consult them according to your need.

This page provides an overview of the legal materials section in APA, MLA and Chicago Style.  

If you are looking for legal citation information in the Hong Kong context, the Faculty of Law at CUHK provides a comprehensive Legal Citation Style Guide (last updated May 2020) that provides a lot of examples for Hong Kong legal materials. 

APA Style (Appendix 7.1)

APA Style (Section 11)

In APA Style (7th ed), most legal materials are cited in the standard legal citation style used for legal references across all disciplines. However, legal style has notable differences from the APA style references outlines for other types of sources. "Section 11: Legal References" summarizes key difference between APA style references and legal references, and provides a comprehensive guide to citing APA Style legal references, in-text citation forms for legal materials, and examples.

Please note that the legal examples given in the APA Style Manual are mostly United States and United Nations focused.


If you need to cite a Hong Kong Ordinance in APA style, we recommend the following basic format: 

In-text Citation: 

Narrative citation: Name of Ordinance (Year)

Parenthetical citation: (Name of Ordinance, Year)

Reference List:

Name of OrdinanceChapter Number § Section Number* (Year). 

*The section number is optional. If you are making reference to the whole ordinance, you do not need to include a section number. 

For example:

In-text Citation:

Narrative citation: Copyright Ordinance (2019)

Parenthetical citation: (Copyright Ordinance, 2019)

Reference List:

Making reference to the whole ordinance: Copyright OrdinanceCap 528 (2019).

Making reference to a specific section, namely "Copying by librarians: supply of copies to other libraries": Copyright Ordinance, Cap 528 § 50 (2019).



MLA Style (Section 5.7.14)

MLA Style

In the MLA Style Handbook (8th ed), Page 69 provides an overview on titles of laws, acts and similar political documents, and Section 2.1.3 provides information on citing corporate authors including government agencies.  

Chicago Style (Section 14.281 - 14.317)

Chicago Style (Section 14.269 - 14.305)

Similar to the Bluebook, the Chicago Style (17th ed)primarily uses footnotes in its system. 

Chicago actually recommends using the Bluebook or the ALWD Citation Manual as a way to recognize the ubiquity of these two systems in legal publications, commercial databases, and government archives. 

Most of the examples provided in the Manual are heavily based on the Bluebook (certain exceptions are made for secondary sources and particular unpublished government documents). 

The Chicago Manual of Style by far provides the most geographically diverse examples. They include specific sections on citing legal materials from the U.S., Canada, and the U.K.