Using library resources for research
The Library Services page
• All library information is linked to the Library Services page and
• Read the A-Z Index.
There are links to:
• The catalogue.
• Subject Guides.
• Exam papers database.
• Tutorials that provide help in searching electronic databases.
• Information on how to cite your references and avoid plagiarism.
• Accessing other libraries.
• Contact details for all library staff.
Law Subject Guide
There are subject guides for most subjects. They give you a
good idea of the range of resources available for that subject.
The Law Subject Guide has:
• A list of relevant journals.
• A list of relevant electronic databases.
• Contact details of subject librarians.
• An online Index of Legal Abbreviations of law journals and law
• See the ‘Research Skills for Law’ page.
• The catalogue lists books held in library stock, both paper and
electronic, but not all books published.
• The number of electronic books available will increase rapidly from now
• Use ‘keyword’ or ‘advanced keyword’ searches to find items on a topic.
• Use keyword search features, a.k.a. Boolean operators, to join your
• Use the ‘help’ function on the catalogue to find out more.
• Work through the catalogue tutorial to learn how to search the
• Reservations may be placed and inter-library loans may be
ordered via the catalogue. As distance learners you won’t use
these services unless you are based in London or visit the
• The catalogue lists journal titles and law report series but not
articles inside journals or cases in law reports. Search the
electronic databases such as Westlaw and Lexis-Nexis for
• All electronic resources: books, journals and databases may be
accessed and searched via the catalogue.
• Inform the library immediately if you have any problems
accessing electronic resources. Many problems are easily
solved via email.
• You need to register in the library to use any of the resources.
• Legal databases include: Westlaw; Lexis-Nexis Butterworths
Academic Library; HeinOnline; JustCite; Lloyds List; Lloyds Law
• Electronic databases searched via the library page are delivered
via the web but are reliable academic resources subscribed to
by the university.
• You have to log in using your networked computer username
• As distance learners you have access to vast electronic
information resources which may be accessed from any
computer with web access, anywhere.
Choosing a relevant database
When choosing a relevant database think about:
• The subject(s) covered by the database: Depending on your
topic of research, you might want to consult databases other
than legal ones, such as Psycinfo, a psychology database.
• The years covered by a database: Some databases are
archives of journals from volume 1. Some are updated more
often than others. Some databases don’t have the latest journal
• The journal titles or law reports it references: There is overlap in
information but also important differences between databases.
• Is it a full-text database or mostly an abstracting and indexing
• The limited number of words you use in your search are known
• Select the keywords you use in your search carefully in order to
find a manageable amount of relevant information
• Be aware of different spellings, i.e. globalization or
globalisation; organization or organisation
• Different terms used in other countries, i.e. primary school or
• Essay question: ‘Membership of the European Community and
the effects of the Human Rights Act 1998 have had little impact
on the approaches to statutory interpretation practiced by the
• Possible keywords or phrases: human rights act, european
community, ec, judiciary, judges, statutory interpretation,
• Some of the keywords are obvious and some are more abstract,
such as impact and effect, and you need to think of similar
words to describe the concept.
• Join your keywords with Boolean operators such as and, or, not
Boolean Searching – tips for searching
• The rules for searching differ slightly on different databases.
• Always check the search tips or help facility on a particular
• Databases have their own online tutorials. Take the time to work
• If you understand the logic and know some of the common
search features, you will easily be able to switch between
searching different databases.
Search tips continued…
• Phrase searching: human rights act or “human rights act”
• Some databases, such as LNB, automatically treat consecutive
keywords as a phrase
• Others, such as Westlaw, require quotation marks on either
side of a phrase.
• Sometimes searching on a phrase rather than individual
keywords might retrieve more relevant information.
Search tips continued…
• AND: devolution and wales (sometimes + or &)
This will narrow down your search.
• OR: ec or european community (sometimes ,)
This widens your search.
• NOT: devolution not scotland (sometimes and not)
This excludes aspects of a topic.
Search tips continued…
• Truncation: A symbol (*) replaces letters, such as judg*. That
will find words with different endings: judge, judged or judges
but not judiciary. On some databases ($) or (!) is used.
• Wildcards: A symbol, ?, is used to replace letters.
e.g. globali?ation will find different spellings, globalisation and
globalization; organi?ation for organisation or organization.
There are many more search techniques such as these so check
the database you are using.
Limiting your search
• Many databases have basic or easy search options and
advanced search options for when you want to be more
• There are options to limit your search to find fewer, more
relevant results, so you can search for:
• journal articles or cases
• information published within specific date ranges
• Articles within specific journal titles
• Full-text articles only from journals subscribed to by the library.
• If the results from your search do not look relevant or specific
enough, edit your search and adjust your keywords and/ or
Boolean connectors (and, or, not)
Organise and update your research
Try to be methodical and consistent in your research:
• Email, save or print results of you search and keep them in
files, paper or electronic.
• Save searches on a database and run them again at regular
• Set up alerts. You will be sent email updates whenever new
items on your research topic are added to the database.
Full-Text electronic information
• Some databases contain full-text information:
electronic newspaper database: Nexis UK
• Electronic journals: Modern Law Review, Lloyds List
• Electronic journal databases: Ebsco, Ingenta, Swetswise
provide full-text journal articles for journals subscribed to by the
• You can search these databases for articles on a topic across
all journal titles or within a specific journal.
Full-Text electronic information
• Legislation: For example - Lawtel has all the Acts of Parliament
from 1984 onwards and Statutory Instruments enabled by the
Acts. Lexis Nexis Butterworths has Acts of Parliament from
1266 and Statutory Instruments from 1956. Westlaw has Acts
from 1267 and Statutory Instruments from 1948.
• Law reports: Heinonline has The English Reports. Westlaw has
The Law Reports from 1865. LNB has the Church of England
Measures from 1920.
• Encyclopaedias and books: Halsbury’s Laws of England on
• Electronic information is constantly changing. Databases are
always being improved to make them easier to use. New
information is always being added to databses.
Abstract and Indexing Databases
• These are databases that index and abstract journal articles and
books providing references only, sometimes with a summary of
the article. Most databases are actually a combination of full-text
and references only, such as Westlaw and Lexis-Nexis.
• These databases are huge. Items not available full-text on one
database might be available through another database so
always check the catalogue.
• Items not in stock may be ordered through inter-library loans but
they have to be fetched from the library. You also have access
to other academic libraries through the Sconul Access
Abstracting and Indexing databases
• Search the Legal Journals Index on Westlaw for references to
journal articles. Some will be full-text, others not. It is the most
comprehensive database of journal articles so you will have a
good idea of what has been published on a topic.
• Search Westlaw and Lexis-Nexis for cases. Some will be full-
text, others not, so remember to check to see if we have the
• There is overlap between databases but each database also
has material that is unique, so you need to check the coverage.
• Try doing the same search across databases to see how the
Using other libraries
• You may join the Sconul Access scheme and use other participating
university libraries: www.access.sconul.ac.uk
• Search across all the M25 Consortium catalogues of university
libraries in and around London, though you won’t have access to all
• Search COPAC, the top research institutions in the UK, including the
• Search the British Library catalogue. http://catalogue.bl.uk
Using the web for academic research
• Academic institutions, government departments and non-profit
organisations make digitised information freely available to the public
via the web.
• However, anyone can create a web site and there aren’t the same
quality controls that you find in print publishing.
• Therefore information found on the web must be critically assessed in
slightly different ways to print information.
The following online tutorials will show you ways of using the web for
• Internet Detective: http://www.vts.intute.ac.uk/detective/
• Internet for Lawyers: http://www.vts.intute.ac.uk/he/tutorial/lawyers/
• Intute Virtual Training Suite: http://www.vts.intute.ac.uk
Citing electronic sources
• Web sites used in your work must be cited in your bibliography. Check
with academic staff on the style required.
Subject Librarian at City Campus Subject Librarian at North Campus
Chris Smart Megan Redmond
Tel: 020 7320 1186 Tel: 020 7607 5060
Always start your research as soon as possible
• It takes time to find material, so allocate time to do the research
as well as reading, thinking, writing and consulting your lecturer
• You need to demonstrate in your work that you have researched
your topic in depth and consulted a range of sources such as
books, academic journals, law reports, newspapers and web
• You will build up research skills that you will be able can apply in
many different contexts.
• As you search for information you will begin to understand your
chosen topic more and you might want to change it slightly.
Start your research as soon as possible
• The sooner you use the electronic databases the more confident
you will be in searching and finding relevant information and in
using different media; print or electronic.
• You will learn what source to choose for specific information.
• As you search you will discover the keywords you need to use
– current jargon, legal terms in use.
• Ask for help at an early stage – your lecturer or supervisor,
study skills workshops provided by the Learning Development
Unit, subject librarians for Law.
Good luck and enjoy your