Referencing Hack #2 – Square vs Round Brackets

With QUT Legal referencing one of the more tricky concepts to navigate is whether you need to use square or round brackets when citing cases. Don’t worry, you are not alone! Here are some tips to help clear up some of the confusion so you know exactly what to cite.

Tip #1 Figure out what the abbreviation is to determine if it is from a reported legal series or an unreported judgment by looking at our Common Cases Abbreviation list. An unreported judgment’s abbreviation will often be a court of law, such as the QCA (Queensland Court of Appeal) or the FCA (Federal Court of Australia). A reported judgment means the case was published in a report series, such as the Commonwealth Law Reports or the Queensland Reports.

Tip #2 Reported Judgments with square brackets [2017] – The date within the square brackets is the year this case was published in the report series. It is also the volume number. If there is more then one part of a volume there will be a sequential number after the brackets, such as 1 or 2. A case may wait a few years before it is published so these report series’ may contain cases that were heard from a variety of years.The citation below shows that that the case can be found in volume 2016 of the Queensland Reports, part 1.

Tip #3 Reported Judgments with round brackets (2017) – The date within the round brackets is the year of the case’s judgment. Report series who use round brackets organise their volumes by a volume number, which can be found directly after the date in round brackets. The citation below shows that the case can be found in volume 256 of the Commonwealth Law Reports.

Tip #4 Unreported Judgments always have square brackets [2017] – If your abbreviation relates to a specific court of law then your citation is an unreported judgement otherwise known as a medium neutral citation. The date within the square brackets is the year of judgment. Remember, unreported judgments may also be published in a reported series, so make sure to keep an eye out for alternative citations.You should always cite using the most authoritative citation. More information about authoritative cases can be found on our Introduction to Case Law Guide. 

If you need further assistance with your referencing you can contact your friendly QUT Librarians for help.

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