Research Guides

TMLL Research Guide - Chapter 3


USING LEGAL PERIODICALS


Finding articles in legal journals and law reviews

In-depth research should always involve the use of legal journal articles. A large proportion of scholarly legal literature is published in law school law reviews. Other types of law journals are bar association journals and journals written for legal practitioners.

The library has many scholarly law journals in paper, along with selected practitioners’ journals as well as leading journals from other disciplines such as political science and economics. Most are shelved in the compact shelving on Level 1, in alphabetical order by the title of the journal.

The library also has subscriptions to many journals in electronic form; finding these is discussed below.

Law reviews

Often various types of legal periodicals are inaccurately lumped together under the term "law review." Strictly speaking, a law review is a student-edited publication which is produced under the auspices of a law school and which publishes both pieces written by legal scholars and student-written articles and notes. Law reviews may be general in scope or devoted to specialized subject areas. Law review articles which are written by noted scholars may be citable as persuasive authority under some circumstances. They are always heavily footnoted and thus can serve as a tremendous resource for the researcher.

Other legal periodicals

There is a wide variety of other legal periodicals which may not carry the persuasive weight of a scholarly law review, but which may still be useful to the researcher.  These may be published by a professional association or by an independent publisher. Some are highly theoretical while others are more practitioner-oriented. At the lower end of the scale are bar association and other publications which function primarily as "current awareness" or news publications, and which may include little in the way of analysis or in-depth information. However, they may be helpful for tracking down local legal developments that may not appear in nationally oriented journals.

With a little experience you will learn to distinguish among the various types of publications and to evaluate their potential usefulness both as research aids and as persuasive authority. It is essential to develop such winnowing skills, because essentially the same research techniques will yield citations to the various types of publications.

Searching legal journal indexes

The recommended method for finding law journal articles is to use a periodicals index. Indexes allow searching by author, title, subject, and keyword. Many also include abstracts of articles, and online indexes usually link to the full-text of selected articles. Coverage in legal journal indexes is more comprehensive, both in terms of journals covered and dates of coverage, than that of the online full-text journal databases.

The two main legal journal indexes are the Index to Legal Periodicals & Books and LegalTrac, both of which are available under “Databases” on the library’s home page. These indexes include references to many journals not included in Westlaw or Lexis databases and in some cases provide access to the full text electronically. Each of these two online indexes has a parallel print version: the Current Law Index (K33.C87), which provides coverage back to 1980, and the Index to Legal Periodicals (K9.N32), which provides coverage back to 1908.  Both are shelved near the print journals on Level 1.

The Legal Resource Index, a slightly different version of LegalTrac, is available on Westlaw and covers from 1980 to the present.

If you are researching a topic on foreign or international law, you may want to also try the Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals. This index, available electronically under “Databases” on the library’s home page and in paper (K33.I5), indexes mainly non-English language legal journals, but uses English subject headings. (The main foreign-published English-language journals are covered in LegalTrac and the Index to Legal Periodicals & Books.) The electronic version covers articles indexed since 1984.

The subscription service Current Index to Legal Periodicals, which is available and current in HeinOnline’s Law Journal Library is produced weekly by the Marion Gould Gallagher Library at the University of Washington School of Law, and contains articles from journal issues received in the library that week, making it more up-to-date than the other indexes.

Searching for articles in full-text databases

If you do not need to do a comprehensive search, but are just looking for a few relevant articles, you can look for legal journal articles on Google Scholar or on the two main legal online databases, Westlaw and Lexis (access is limited to use by law faculty and students).

Westlaw has articles from over 500 journals – the beginning date of coverage varies, and not all articles from all journals are included. Lexis Advance coverage is similar – it has fewer journals, but contains all articles from the journals it includes. Searching is the same as that used in all the main Westlaw and Lexis databases.  Be especially cautious to note the beginning dates of coverage as they may be more recent than you would expect.

Google Scholar is a search engine that can be limited to searching for scholarly periodicals. For members of the University of Maryland Carey School of Law community, access the full text of many subscription-only articles by changing the Google Scholar settings to show access links for this school. Note that not all databases to which the law library subscribes are searchable through Google Scholar. As such, Google Scholar is a good place to begin your more in-depth research and locate full-text articles on your topic. And if you know the title, author, or date of an article, it can be a fast way to find a full-text version of it.

Finding journals and law reviews

Once you have located a journal citation from an index, if there is no link to the full text, you will need to find the journal, either in paper or electronic format. To find the journal, search the library’s catalog by the title of the journal. Print copies can be found in alphabetical order by title in the periodical stacks, as indicated in the catalog.

For journals available electronically, in addition to using the full-text journal databases and search engines mentioned above, check the Find It link from the catalog record for links to subscription databases where full text is available. You might also check the Library’s list of electronic journals – linked from the library’s homepage. Many of those journals will be included in the journal databases described below.

Law journal databases

  • HeinOnline – Full-text, image-based collection of more than 1800 legal periodical titles. Coverage for each journal starts at its inception and continues to the most current volume allowed under contract between Hein and the journal. HeinOnline is the best place to find older articles from scholarly law journals. Many articles available on Hein can be found using Google Scholar.
  • JSTOR – Complete back issues of scholarly journals covering a variety of subjects. JSTOR includes some law journals; it is best for older journals not included in HeinOnline.

Both HeinOnline and JSTOR provide PDF versions of journals; the Lexis and Westlaw databases mentioned in the section above provide articles with “star pagination” to the original journal pages.

The library subscribes to a number of databases that include many non-legal journals in full-text. To access these, go to either the “Electronic Journals” or “Databases” links on the library's home page.

General news sources

For some topics, information contained in general newspapers and magazines can be helpful for learning about recent developments in an area of law or finding information about trial level decisions that may not have reached an appellate level.  Bloomberg Law, Lexis, and Westlaw, as well as ProQuest platforms contain the full text of dozens of regional and national newspapers. Westlaw and ProQuest have the Baltimore Sun back to 1990. ProQuest also has the Baltimore Sun from 1837-1985, and is accessible from the databases on the library’s website. Lexis contains the Baltimore Sun from the most recent 6+ months.  Of course, many news sources move from one platform to another so these holdings are subject to change, and may also be available on the Internet. Most areas have state or local legal newspapers; for example, The Daily Record focuses on Maryland legal news is accessible from the databases on the library’s website. 

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