Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Bluebook Citation: Electronic Resources

This guide provides the basics for first year memorandums and upper class papers and journals.

Titles & Authors - Rule 18.2.2 & Bluepages Rule 10

Title: As with the URL, titles should not be overly unwieldy but sufficient enough to identify the content of the site/document. If it is unclear what the title is, a "descriptive title can be used" (Rule 18.2.2(b)(iii)).

Author: Same general author rules, if there is a clear one on the site. Same for institutional authors. If there is none, add none.

According to Rule 18.2.2, “All efforts should be made to cite to the most stable electronic location available.”

Date - Rule 18.2.2(c)

The date in the parenthetical should refer only to the document cited, and should be inserted in the parenthetical. Use an exact date and appropriate abbreviations.

If there is no exact date to your document, but there is an indication of last updated, use "(last updated DATE)." If there is no date apprent anywhere, use "(last visited DATE)."

Examples:

  • (Jan. 17, 2008)
  • (last updated Nov. 5, 2004)
  • (last visited Dec. 3, 2001)

Which URL? Rule 18.2.2(d)

The URL (internet address) used in your citation should point directly to the source. What does this mean? Do not give a link that, if you can, that requires further steps to find the source.

If you cannot do this, then you can provide the root URL with further description about how to find the source in the parenthetical, e.g. (follow "archive" link, then "2001-2010") (rule 18.2.2(d)).

Like anything in bluebook, the idea is to provide the easiest and most consistent way for readers to find the source.

Overview - Rule 18 & Bluepages Rule 10

There is sometimes confusion about when and how to cite to materials located on the internet. Below are some rules to keep in mind:

  • Internet sources that are officially authenticated can be cited as if in print (e.g. C.F.R., U.S.C. or Statutes at Large). These would have no internet link appended (Rule 18.2.1 (a)(i)-(ii)). Many federal legal materials fall into this category.
  • If an exact copy is available online (e.g. PDFs with unaltered original pagination) it can be cited as if in print. These would have no internet link appended (Rule 18.2.1 (a)(iii)).
  • If the source is in print but practically unavailable, you can cite the source as if in print and directly append the URL (Rule 18.2.1(b)(i)).
     
  • If an internet source has print characteristics, then you can cite the source as if in print and directly append the URL (Rule 18.2.1(b)(ii)). This is common with government or non-profit reports that are in PDF format with permanent pagination, but are not printed.
     
  • If an internet source is not in print and does not have print characteristics, then you should cite it according to Rule 18.2.2 (online only). Rule 18.2.2 has sub-rules for author, titles, date and time, URL and pinpoint cites. The URL is directly appended to the citation..
     
  • There is a preference for commercial electronic database over the internet - i.e. if an unpublished case is available on a website, but is also available on Westlaw, then cite to Westlaw (Rule 18.3).
     
  • While print versions of books are authoritative, ebooks can be cited if they are the sole media through which the book is available. To indicate that you are citing an ebook, place an "ebook" paranthetical after the date [Rule 15.9 (c)].

 

Commercial Electronic Databases - Rule 18.3

Sometimes cases/opinions are officially unreported/unpublished, but commercial databases pick them up and make them available on their systems. In that case cases may be cited to that database.

Format: party names: docket number; database identifier; court name and exact date in parenthatical.

Example:

United States v. Dewey McKay, No. 12–4001, 2013 WL 1802142 (10th Cir. Apr. 30, 2013).