Skip to Main Content UMKC University Libraries

1st Steps to Using the Law Library

Help with using the catalog systems used by the law school and university as well as how to hunt for ebooks. The emphasis is on law materials.

Introduction to Law Reviews & Journals

Law reviews and journals are frequently edited by law students but contain articles by law professors as well as students.  There are also peer-reviewed journals edited by law faculty and often published by a commercial publisher.  Generally, a journal, as distinguished from a law review, is on a specialized topic, such as the Cornell International Law Journal.  Some journals are interdisiplinary (e.g., Journal of Law & Religion) and require special databases to access.  Finally, professional organizations such as state bars and the American Bar Association publish journals that are focussed on a professional audience.

Westlaw & Lexis

Sometimes searching on Westlaw and Lexis can produce the best results because you can use a wide variety of commands, including the powerful, "atleastN(search term)" where N is a number. This helps exclude articles that have only a passing reference to your topic. The following example in Lexis' Law Reviews & Journals database illustrates the use of the atleast command.

using atleast5(transformative) in the Lexis Law Review and Journal database.

Search Terms & Connectors
Westlaw Command Lexis Command Action
/s /s same sentence
+s pre/s same sentence and order
  not /s not within same sentence
/p /p same paragraph
+p pre/p same paragraph and order
  not /p not within same paragraph (approximately 75 words)
  /seg within same segment (approximately 100 words)
  not /seg not within same segment
/[n] /[n] within n (1-255) terms of
+[n] pre/[n] same as above but in same order
  not /[n] not within number of words
% AND NOT But not
& & AND
! ! Root expander (expands end of the word or root of a word)
* * replaces a single character (cannot start a word)
#   prefix to turn off plurals and equivalents

Library & Web Resources

Library Collections & HeinOnline

The law library has in storage a great many law reviews and journals. However, a database known as HeinOnline is a repository of thousands of journals with articles in PDF format, often back to the journals' inception. Westlaw and Lexis don't go back this far. HeinOnline also has a number of features that make it worth searching apart from Westlaw and Lexis.  HeinOnline is located on the library's databases page.

Google Scholar

Many articles in HeinOnline can also be found  through Google Scholar at  Google Scholar also scans online repositories like SSRN and law schools' Law Review Commons by Digital Commons (BePress/Elsevier) which carry many articles and papers even before they have been published in journals.  Note that SSRN and Digital Commons allow advanced searching by fields such as summary and abstract.  They are excellent ways to research cutting-edge issues.

Google Scholar Page

Other Resources

The following are some of the resources available on the law library database page:

  • Academic Search Complete (EBSCO host) - a comprehensive multi-disciplinary full-text database, with more than 8,500 full-text periodicals, and more than 7,300 peer-reviewed journals. Coverage includes monographs, educational, public policy and scientific reports, conference proceedings and indexing of several newspapers. There are many law and interdisciplinary titles.
  • JSTOR - contains full-text articles from selected journals in a broad range of disciplines, including African-American studies, art, ecology, economics, education, history, law, literature, music, general science, sociology, and statistics.
  • eJournals - a link to a journal finder in electronic format at UMKC.
Interlibrary Loan

Borrowing through Interlibrary Loan can be an excellent way to get access to hard to find articles.  Use the Inter-Library Loan link button on the law library home page.