To identify an unknown source, you must decipher the citation. Most citations will be familiar to you, such as cases or federal statutes. However, citations to secondary sources or more obscure primary law can be more difficult to understand. There are many resources you can use to help understand the abbreviations used in a citation.
Bluebook Tables are helpful not just to create citations, but also to interpret citation abbreviations you don't know. Especially useful tables for identifying sources are:
This resource contains an extensive range of acronyms, abbreviations, and symbols used in American legal literature. You can use the first part of the dictionary to identify the meaning of abbreviations and the second part of the dictionary to identify the abbreviations for resources. Prince's Dictionary of Legal Abbreviations is available at the Reference Desk.
This is a free online resource you can use to search for the meaning of abbreviations. Cardiff includes English language legal publications from the United States and the British Isles, as well as a wide selection of foreign language legal publications. You can search an abbreviation to find the matching publication title, or you can search the title to find the abbreviation.
This resource includes citation systems for 45 countries, as well as citation rules for international organizations, tribunals, and treaties. The 2009 edition is available in print at the Reference Desk and a 2006 edition is available online.
This print resource is available in the Reference Collection of the Law Library. Spanning four volumes, it is an extensive collection of legal abbreviations from countries around the world.
Remember: As a last resort for especially tricky citations, you can always Google the abbreviation or search the abbreviation in a legal research database to find some hint as to what it means. Or see a reference librarian for help!