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Guide for Journal Source Finders

Last Updated 1/2014 Direct feedback on this page to lawlib@umn.edu.

I. How to Find Sources

TIP: Before you start, make sure you understand your journal’s policy on paper versus electronic sources.  For example, does your journal accept PDF versions of law review articles from HeinOnline? What about PDF versions of court cases from Westlaw? You will save time if you know what your journal requires.

To find PDF versions of commonly-used sources, see the Law Library's guide, Where to Find Reliable Imaged Documents for Legal Research.

How to find books


  1. Log into MNCAT Discovery by clicking on the "Your Account" link at the top of the MNCAT Discovery homepage.


  2. Start with a title browse for the name of the book in MNCAT Discovery, dropping initial articles like "the" and "an."


  3. If that doesn’t work, try a title keyword search, or an author search using the name of the author or editor.


  4. If you find a book in a University of Minnesota-Twin Cities library, you can request to have the book sent to the Law Library by using the University Libraries' Get It! service (see description of this service at: https://www.lib.umn.edu/services/getit).


    TIP: If you find the item in MNCAT Discovery but it is checked out, recall it. Here’s how: When you’re looking at the page in MNCAT Discovery that tells you it’s checked out, click on the word "Recall" at the far left. The average time for a book to return after it’s recalled is about seven days.


  5. If MNCAT Discovery doesn’t seem to have a record of the book, try WorldCat. This database includes listings from most local libraries. If WorldCat tells you that another library outside the Twin Cities owns the book, make a note of that fact for your article editor. 


  6. Even if WorldCat doesn’t show any local libraries with the book, check the individual catalogs of other local law libraries (http://library.law.umn.edu/librarycatalogs.html). Sometimes WorldCat isn’t complete or up-to-date. 


  7. Remember, you have reciprocal borrowing privileges at other Twin Cities law schools (William Mitchell, St. Thomas, and Hamline). So you can go there and check out books for source finds.


  8. If the book is located off campus, you can request it via Interlibrary Loan. See III below.


  9. If you find the book in MNCAT Discovery, copy down its "call number" (e.g., KZ1277 .V55 1997). Look at the Library Location Guides to find where items with this call number are located.


TIP: If you can’t find a book in WorldCat or MNCAT Discovery, try a Google or LexisNexis/Westlaw full-text law reviews search. Sometimes this technique exposes problems with the citation by turning up records from online booksellers, faculty web pages, or other sources that cite your book.


How to find journal articles


  1. Look for the name of the journal (not the name of the article!) in MNCAT Discovery.


  2. If the journal is located outside the Law Library at any library on the Twin Cities Campus (including St. Paul campus libraries such as the Magrath Library), you are responsible for going to that library and making a photocopy.


  3. Your journal may accept a PDF version. If so, check whether MNCAT Discovery lists an "Internet Resource" link for the periodical you need.


  4. If you can’t find the journal in MNCAT Discovery, check this U of M Library webpage, which lets you search for online journals "buried" in larger databases: http://tc.liblink.umn.edu/sfx_local/a-z/default


    TIP: If you don’t recognize the journal abbreviation, try the following approaches:


    Enter the abbreviation as a title search in MNCAT Discovery—e.g., j. law econ retrieves the Journal of Law & Economics.


    Look in the Bluebook, Table 13, which lists periodical titles and their abbreviations.


    Check Bieber's Dictionary of Legal Abbreviations (in the Reference Office and on LexisNexis (Legal > Reference > General > Bieber's Dictionary of Legal Abbreviations).


    Ask for help from the reference librarians.


  5. If you still can’t find the journal at the University of Minnesota, check the WorldCat database to see if a local library has it. If any publicly-accessible area library owns the journal, you are responsible for going to the library and photocopying it.


    You can make interlibrary loan requests for articles held in other libraries (See III below.) However, ILL might not meet your needs if you need items quickly, since there can be delays in getting requests filled.)

How to find newspapers


  1. Start with a title browse in MNCAT Discovery. Generally, the Wilson Library has major newspapers like the Washington Post, but does not have ones like the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

  3. If MNCAT Discovery doesn’t have the newspaper, try WorldCat. The Minneapolis Public Library has a few US newspapers that Wilson does not. You are, however, unlikely to find a paper or microfilm version of most newspapers at any Twin Cities library.


    TIP: It is difficult to track down an exact copy of newspaper articles that have appeared in non-major newspapers in recent years. This is because libraries today purchase electronic archives and many no longer collect back runs of newpapers on microform. These archives often do not provide imaged versions of articles. Most law review authors cite to newspaper articles they have found on Westlaw, LexisNexis, or the internet. If they cite to a hard-to-find newspaper, or to wire services like Reuters or Associated Press, you can sometimes use newspaper databases to find a nearly-identical story in one of the major newspapers (Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, New York Times). If your editor won’t accept Westlaw, LexisNexis, or web versions of newspaper stories, ask if you can try finding a story in one of the major papers.


  4. New York Times articles from 1851-2009 are available in PDF files from http://proquest.umi.com/login for U of M users. Other newspapers are available online, though not necessarily in PDF; check the News Sources at the University Libraries web page: http://www.lib.umn.edu/libdata/page.phtml?page_id=823 for information and links.

How to find codified statutes


  1. Generally, current federal statutes must be photocopied from the official U.S. Code. The curent edition is available on Reserve at the Circulation Desk.  Earlier editions are available in Section 1B of the first floor stacks.


  2. The HeinOnline U.S. Code Collection includes complete coverage of the U.S. Code dating back to inception in 1925-1926. Documents are available in PDF image format. It also includes a comprehensive collection of early federal statute compilations published prior to the U.S. Code.


  3. Current state statutes must be photocopied from the first-floor state statutes collection on the low shelves (Law Library PRIMARY).  Older state statutes are on the third floor; ask a reference librarian for help. HeinOnline's State Statutes: An Historical Archive is an online source for PDF copies of certain older state statutes/codes.

TIP: Official state codes are very difficult to find. It might be necessary to cite to an annotated version.


How to find public laws


  1. New federal laws are published in the Statutes at Large (abbreviated as "Stat."). If you have a citation like Pub. L. 107-56, you will need to find its Statutes at Large citation. Ask for help from the reference librarians, or just browse the Statutes at Large volumes—their spines list the range of public laws included in each volume. A complete, unrackable set of Statutes at Large is at the entrance to the first floor of the Law Library (KF50 .U6); at the same call in the stacks on the first floor there is a rackable set that ends in 1997.


  2. You can get PDF versions of Public Laws from http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/browse/collection.action?collectionCode=PLAW (back to 1995).


  3. HeinOnline has excellent-quality PDF versions of Statutes at Large from 1789-2009.


How to find legislative history materials

(see also our guides: Researching Federal Legislative History, and  Where to Find Reliable Imaged Document Sources for Legal Research)


  1. Online Sources (PDF versions)
    Two databases that generally provide a good starting point for locating Federal legislative history documents are ProQuest Congressional and ProQuest Legislative Insight. Both databases contain a rich collection of congressional documents available as PDF files. ProQuest Congressional also indexes many documents that are not available online in full-text and provides information such as document numbers that can be helpful in retrieving them from the library’s microform and print collections. Other online sources for locating PDF versions of Congressional documents include: HeinOnline’s U.S. Congressional Documents Library, the U.S. Congressional Serial – Digital Edition (Readex), and FDsys (Federal Digital System).


  2. Microfiche & Print Collections
    In addition to online databases, many Congressional documents such as bills (through 2001), committee reports, hearings, prints and more are available on microfiche in the Law Library and the Government Publications Library in Wilson Library. Use ProQuest Congressional and/or MNCAT Discovery to locate document numbers and call numbers.

  3. Congressional Record
    The Congressional Record is available online (PDF files) and in hardcopy print volumes.  Consult the "Congressional Record" section of the Law Library's guide, Researching Federal Legislative History for links and more information.


  4. To find Minnesota legislative history materials, consult the Minnesota Legislative History Guide at http://www.leg.state.mn.us/leg/Leghist/histstep.asp.


TIP: Once you identify the title of a committee report, hearing, or print, run a title search in MNCAT Discovery. Often hard copy versions of these documents will be available in the law library.


How to find cases


  1. The Library has older collections of duplicate case reporters, which can be racked.  However, the Library no longer buys duplicate sets, so for recent cases, you may need to photocopy the reporter sets on the second floor. For a guide that shows the location of reporter sets, see Location Guide to Frequently Requested Materials, http://library.law.umn.edu/frequently-requested-materials-guide.pdf.


  2. HeinOnline has PDF versions of cases from U.S. Reports from 1754 to the most current available. Westlaw has PDF versions for some cases from the Federal Reporter, Federal Supplement, and regional reporters (e.g., S.W.3d, N.E.3d); check online to see the coverage.


TIP: When you select the PDF format option on Westlaw, you may get a warning saying that you will "incur additional charges." This warning does not apply to law school users. Also, if you print PDF versions, they come out at your networked printer, not at the Westlaw printers.


How to find the Federal Register (FR)


  1. Recent copies of the Federal Register (about the last six months) are available on the first floor on the low shelves, Law Library Primary KF70.A2. These are not rackable and must be photocopied.


  2. PDF copies of the Federal Register from 1936-current are available from HeinOnline. You can get Federal Register documents from 1994 onward, in an image-based format like PDF, from the FDsys website: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/browse/collection.action?collectionCode=FR.


  3. Paper copies of the Federal Register from 1936-October 1981 are available in US Documents GS4.107: on the second floor.


  4. If your journal does not accept PDF copies, for Federal Register issues starting in 1981, you will have to use microfiche stored in the basement.  Request this at the Circulation Desk.


How to find the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR)

  1. The most current version of the CFR, which is usually the one you need, is located in Law Library Primary KF 70 .A3. These paperback volumes don’t circulate, so you’ll need to photocopy them.


  2. HeinOnline has PDF versions of the CFR from 1938-date (some years incomplete).  Older paper versions of the CFR are located on the second floor in two different areas (depending on the date you need): GS4.108:35 (1949-1984) and AE2.106/3:35 (1985- ). FDsys also has images of the CFR from 1997 to date, at http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/browse/collectionCfr.action?collectionCode=CFR.

How to find treaties


  1. For help on finding treaties, see the Law Library Research guide, Researching Treaties. See also the Library's list of Frequently-Cited Treaties, which provides citations to print sources and other useful information. 


  2. You can get PDF versions of several U.S. treaty series from HeinOnline, and United Nations treaties from http://treaties.un.org. The EISIL (http://www.eisil.org) database contains citation information for hundreds of commonly-cited treaties.


How to find international trade law documents


  1. See the Law Library guide, Finding Paper Sources  for GATT/WTO Documents.


How to find other documents and resolve bad cites


  1. You can sometimes resolve a cite problem by searching in the Lexis or Westlaw full-text law review databases. This technique can lead you to a correct author or title, a more complete and understandable citation, or a paper source for a document that your article cites to the web. 


  2. For foreign citations, try the Cardiff Index to Legal Abbreviations, which lets you search by citation or title.


  3. For other citations, try Bieber's Dictionary of Legal Abbreviations (in the Reference Office and on LexisNexis (Legal > Reference > General > Bieber's Dictionary of Legal Abbreviations). Or try the online citation guide at http://www.thelaw.net/citations/a.htm.


  4. For other documents, bad cites, or any source-finding problem, the reference librarians can help.

II. Library Locations


University of Minnesota libraries, locations and hours


You can get a great map showing U of M libraries at the Reference Office.

Local Law school Libraries


Other Local Law Libraries’ Web Sites

Check the Law Library's list of Minnesota Law Libraries.

 Other Local Libraries (non-law)

Other local libraries' websites can be found at http://www.mnlibs.org/dir/index.cfm.

Or search MNLINK, a combined catalog for Minnesota libraries.

III. What to do if you can't find a source locally


A. Check with the reference librarians.

We might be able to unearth something for you.


B. Check with your article editor.

He or she might decide to contact the author, or, if that fails, to coordinate an inter-library loan (ILL) request.


Tip: What NOT to do—

Submit an ILL request without checking with a reference librarian.

Submit an ILL request without checking with your editor.


About Interlibrary Loan

If an item is unavailable and the author cannot provide it, the Law Library can try to get it for you from another library. This process works best when you need only a few pages that can be faxed or sent electronically. Please note: the law library will not request a hardcopy version of a work that is available in a reliable digital facsimile. Consult a librarian if you have questions.


In cases where you need an entire book, the library may, as a last resort, try to borrow it from another library.  This process can take several weeks, and is not always successful. Just like works that you check out of other campus libraries or other libraries in the metro area, the ILL work will be checked out for a limited period of time to you, and you will be personally responsible for it. The loan period is determined by the library that lends the book. Therefore, ILL items cannot be racked.

How to Submit an Interlibrary Loan Request

The lead editor for an article should coordinate any ILL requests. This avoids problems such as multiple requests for the same item and requests that do not specify all the pages needed.

Submit requests to x-asap@umn.edu.  (If you have bibliographic information from MNCAT, WorldCat, or another souce, please paste it into the request.)

Please indicate in the request if the item should be at the University of Minnesota, but is missing or if pages are missing.  (This will speed up the request.)

TIP: For all ILL requests where we ask for part of an article or a book, we routinely ask for the title page.  You do not have to specify that you need this information.