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Secondary Sources: Law Review Articles and Journals


The articles contained in legal periodicals can be a great source for finding background information on a legal topic that may be new or obscure. They can also be highly useful in finding information about an important case or topic. Footnotes or endnotes in the articles can be especially helpful in leading the researcher to even more sources.

There are two main types of legal periodicals:

  • Academic law reviews and journals: Scholarly publications usually edited by law students in conjunction with faculty members. They contain both lengthy articles and shorter essays by professors and lawyers, as well as comments, notes, or developments in the law written by students. Law review articles often focus on new or emerging areas of law, and they can offer more critical commentary than a legal encyclopedia or A.L.R. entry.
  • Practice-oriented journals: Cover of a variety of legal topics, usually with articles written by practicing attorneys or active bar members

In addition, working papers are another source of secondary analysis. They are frequently draft or pre-publication versions of law review articles. When citing or relying on a working paper, be sure to carefully check its citations. It is often necessary to request the author's permission before citing.

Search Tips

  1. Not every journal is available online; articles written before the 1980s often need to be found using print indexes and print journals due to database coverage.
  2. Different databases contain different journals, though there is a great deal of overlap.
  3. Citations to articles written about a specific case can be found by Shepardizing or KeyCiting the case.
  4. Citations to articles about statutes may be listed in the annotations to the statute and at the end of Shepard's or KeyCite citing references.
  5. Secondary sources may provide law review citations.

Free Databases

BePress Legal Repository: Contains approximately 3000 articles and working papers by law faculty.

Google Scholar: Search multiple legal journals at once. There are often links that take you directly to the articles when available.

Social Science Research Network (SSRN): Contains both published and working papers. An interdisciplinary database, its Legal Scholarship Network contains tens of thousands of law-related papers and abstracts. Titles and abstracts may be viewed without signing up, but free registration is required for downloading.

Subscription Databases

Current students should access these through the Law Library Databases page. Consult the scope of a particular law review or journal to determine its coverage within a database.

HeinOnline Law Journal Library: Provides full-text access to more than 1,200 law and law-related periodicals in PDF format. Coverage begins with a journal’s first volumes, but does not usually include its most recent volume. Therefore, a user will generally notice a one-volume delay. Searching can be done by title or author name, as well as full-text searching of the collection or select periodicals. Date ranges may also be entered to narrow search results.

LexisNexis/Lexis Advance: Provides access to the full text of selected documents published in law reviews, Continuing Legal Education materials, legal newspapers, and bar journals. Full coverage is available for many of these periodicals.

Westlaw: Includes the full text of selected documents published in law reviews, Continuing Legal Education course handbook collections, and bar journals. Full coverage is available for many of these periodicals.


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