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Referencing, Oxford Style

Oxford style guidelines are often cited as the most comprehensive system available. Unlike other guidelines, Oxford gives specific rules for both referencing techniques and citation formats. In this article we shall examine briefly the rules of referencing used by the Oxford style guidelines.

Generally, Oxford style uses a combination of in-line notations, footnotes, endnotes, and annotated bibliographic appendices, leading to its designation as a “documentary-note” referencing system. It is most commonly found in the fields of history and philosophy, but has on frequent occasion appeared outside those fields.

Oxford In-Line References

Oxford in-line notations consist of numeric supra-script (above-line) markers where each marker relates to a specific footnote or endnote containing the citation reference or additional materials. Marker use can be chapter-specific (restarting at one with each new chapter or section) or document-wide (continuous numbering throughout the document or book).

A marker is used each time information or a quote from a source is used. The markers are sequentially numbered in the order they appear, pointing to a specific, unique footnote or endnote and are normally found at the end of the sentence, rather than after the specific section to which they refer. An exception to this rule is that referencing marks should be inserted immediately after a specific quote when possible.

Footnotes and Endnotes

In parallel to the in-line markers, footnotes or endnotes are also sequentially numbered. When citing resources, use a full citation for the first incident, then a name-date-page format for subsequent notes. For sequential notes that reference the same source as the previous note, the notation “ibid” is used, noting only differences in page numbers referenced if appropriate. It should be noted that footnotes and endnotes are also used for side comments or noting related materials that may not fit smoothly into the text itself. This use does not affect the numeric sequence of references.

Endnotes are normally found at the end of a book, prior to the bibliography and index, but can also be found at the end of specific chapters when the reference-numbering scheme is chapter-specific.

The Oxford Bibliography

The Oxford system also calls for an annotated bibliography at the end of the document or book, located after the endnotes, but before the index, if present. Under the Oxford system, each entry will include a brief description (annotation) of the source and its relevance to the document. The bibliography will also have a list of works that may have been consulted or studied but which were not directly used or referenced in the associated document or book and may include a section of materials not used or referenced, but that the author feels may be of interest.

Summarizing vs. Paraphrasing

Under Oxford referencing, both summarization and paraphrasing is permissible. To set the record straight about the difference between these concepts, summarizing is the description of a longer document into a paragraph or two, touching upon highlights and critical information, whereas paraphrasing is a one or two sentence explaining the significance of the source.


Quotes of less than thirty words should be presented in the text of a related paragraph. Quotations longer than thirty words should be a separate paragraph, indented an additional four-tenths of an inch from the left margin. In both cases, the supra-script notion should immediately follow the quotation.

In the case of a third-party quote (a quote cited in another book), the supra-script is performed as normal, but the original author should be cited (with source) and a notation regarding it being cited in the second work should be made like this:
G. Bush, U.S. President, 2005 State of the Union, cited in T. Wyldstar, The Unconstitutional President, Wyldstar Publications, Thornton, Colorado, 2008, p. 128

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