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Finding Resources at the Law Library: Serials

Library policies and explanation of resources

Introduction to Serials

Print resources in a library are usually divided into two types:  books, that are intended as a one-time publication, and serials, titles that are published with regular or irregular frequency. Periodicals, reporters, statutes, looseleafs, are examples of serial legal publications.  As libraries have moved more and more to electronic environments, serial publications were the first publications to become widely available.  A majority of legal resources are published as serials.

Electronic Full-Text Sources

Most library users opt to search serials, especially periodical literature, through electronic resources. The full text of primary law resources, such as statutes and case decisions, as well as a good collection of legal periodical articles, is included in Lexis and Westlaw for those with password access and also on Westlaw and Nexis Uni if you are affiliated with the university or are researching on campus.  These databases allow author, title, and keyword searching and are available from our library Databases page.

HeinOnline, also available through the list of databases on the Law Library website, has a full-text historical collection of hundreds of law review titles. Once in the database, select the link for Law Journal Library. This brings up a directory of the available titles. By clicking the Search button near the top of the screen, you can perform a subject search. Results can be printed or emailed.  In addition to periodical literature, HeinOnline has a variety of subject-specific and primary law libraries that are very helpful to researchers. 

Other electronic vendors are below.  Visit the Databases page for access to these and other electronic materials.

  • Fastcase law treatises published by Wolters Kluwer
  • LLMC links to files of federal and international materials
  • ProQuest Congressional resources
  • RIA tax resources

Google Scholar contains the full text of a significant portion of law review articles that are available in HeinOnline and other periodical databases. Users might have access to the full text of the article. If you found an article that you like but cannot get full access through Google Scholar, try looking up the article in UW Libraries' collection. If one of the campus libraries licenses the content, you should be able to access the full article.

Article Indexes

LegalTrac, an eletronic index of law review articles, legal newspapers, and some law-related articles in popular magazines, is available through our Databases list. For the most part, Legaltrac is not full-text. It directs users to articles within law reviews and periodicals. To locate the article itself, users must determine whether the library owns the title and identify the shelf locations or search them separately in HeinOnline. Selected articles on LegalTrac now have links to Westlaw and Lexis for full-text retrieval. 

Indexes to Print Resources

Each category of serials will have its own index. Legal encyclopedias, A.L.R.'s and state and federal statutes have index volumes at the end of their sets. Cases are indexed in digests. See the Finding Case Law guide for instructions on use.

Which Serials are in the Law Library

To locate a specific title, check the Law Library Catalog, WebHopper.  The volumes and issues we own are listed when you select the title.  Once you have identified a title, it can be difficult to locate within the library. Some serial title records have a shelf location instead of a call number. These codes indicate the floor (M=Main, B=Basement and S=Second), the direction (E=East, W=West, S=South and N=North) and the range number where the item is located. The United States Reports location code, for example, is M-S-1. This means these reporters are on the Main floor, South side of the room, beginning on range 1. 

Our largest serial collection of law reviews and periodicals is shelved on the second floor.  It is arranged alphabetically by title.  Other large sets of serials, like reporters, digests, and statutes are shelved in the Reference area.  In all cases, the shelving units are labeled with the location codes found in the Law Library Catalog.

Unavailable Items

If an item is checked out or otherwise unavailable, talk with a reference librarian. We may be able to retrieve the item or borrow it for you through Interlibrary Loan.

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