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Cite Checking Resources: Locating & Collecting Sources

This guide is designed to help law students start their first cite checking assignment, and is also intended to be a reference that students can return to at anytime for assistance with typical cite checking questions.

How to Locate and Collect Sources

The next major step in a cite check is to locate the sources cited in your footnotes.  The Bluebook requires citation to print sources "unless there is a digital copy of the source available that is authenticated, official, or an exact copy of the printed source" (this often means a PDF, though an authenticated or official source can be a website if the governing authority has designated it as such) (see Rule 18). If you know where to look for the print (or PDF) version of the most common types of sources, you can locate these quickly before moving on to sources that are not as common.

Working from home: Be sure to read the Access to Databases Guide carefully for information on accessing licensed database resources.

Knowing where to look for the most common types of sources: Each of the tabs in the box below provide tips on locating a common type of source found in cite checks.

Please see the "Using the Library Catalogs" box at the bottom of this column if you are not already familiar with searching a library's online catalog.

Locating common sources

Books

  • Use the UCLA Library’s online catalog to determine whether the book is available in one of our campus libraries, and note the call number so you can locate the book on the shelf. 
  • If one of our campus libraries does not have a copy, begin the Interlibrary Loan (ILL) checklist. The ILL checklist can be found in the UCLA Law Review Training Handouts (a pdf on the left column of this page).
  • Steps in the ILL checklist include checking the Melvyl and/or WorldCat catalogs. These can help you to make certain that the book citation is correct, and that the book is held by another library somewhere.  They can also sometimes lead to access to an online full text PDF version that was not apparent from the UCLA catalog.
  • You can also check Google Books and HeinOnline to see if a full text PDF version is available.
  • Once you have completed all steps in the ILL checklist, you may place an ILL request to obtain a copy from another library.  

Law Review Articles.  You may locate an online PDF version, or locate the print volume on a library shelf.  

  • Heinonline (a subscription database) has a large collection of law review articles in PDF form, and it is a good place to start looking up law review articles. 

Non-Law Periodical Articles.  (For a thorough guide to searching for non-legal journal articles, see our Libguide here.) 

  • JSTOR (a subscription database) is a good example of one of numerous subscription databases where PDF versions of non-legal articles can be found.

All Articles.

  • Library catalog. You can look up the name of the journal (NOT the title of the article) in the library’s online catalog. If there is a catalog entry for that journal, it will not only give you a call number, so that you can locate the print copy of the journal in the stacks, but if the library subscribes to that journal electronically, it will give you a link to the online database(s) that include(s) the journal.  Follow the link to gain access to the journal, and then look up the article that you need. 
  • Google ScholarAlternatively, you can search for the title of the article in Google Scholar. If UCLA subscribes to the article online (e.g. through Heinonline or JSTOR), Google Scholar will provide a link to that content, but because Google Scholar will not tell you whether we have the source on our library shelves, it may be more efficient to do your searching in the UCLA catlog since it will provide you with both electronic links and library shelving information.
  • Note: Google Scholar may locate the article you need on SSRN or another online repository.  Online repositories are not journal databases, they are places for authors to store their work. Authors often upload to a repository the "author's final version" which is the last draft the author had before giving the journal a copyright license. The "author's final version" is usually NOT the version you want to use for cite-checking, so if you beware of using SSRN or other repositories for cite-checking.

Access: electronic vs print.

  • If you are having difficulty accessing our electronic databases from home, remember that our subscriptions are IP authenticated and see the Database Access Guide for more details. Keep in mind that even when the library has an online subscription to a journal, (1) the database may not have PDF versions of articles, or (2) our database subscription may cover a limited range of dates, and the article that you are trying to locate may not fall within the date range of our online subscription.  In either case, you will have to locate the article in print on a shelf in the library stacks.  
  • If you are unable to access the article electronically or in print at one of our campus libraries, begin the Interlibrary Loan (ILL) checklist. The ILL checklist can be found in the UCLA Law Review Training Handouts (a pdf on the left column of this page).
  • Finally, if your journal does not strictly require you to follow the Bluebook requirement of checking a print or PDF source, you can find non-PDF articles in other online databases including Westlaw or Lexis.

Cases. You may find Bluebook-friendly “authenticated, official, or an exact copy of the printed source” cases in some internet databases. 

  • First, Check T1 in the Bluebook for the approved case reporter for each court and jurisdiction.
  • Try HeinonlineWestlaw and Lexis for Bluebook-approved (PDF) versions of cases.  Keep in mind however that (1) most electronic versions of cases are not PDFs and (2) if you do find a PDF version of a case, many PDFs are from non-Bluebook-approved case reporters.
  • Use the library.  If you cannot find Bluebook-approved versions online, you need to use the library.  In our library, federal and regional case reporters are located on the 1st floor, and state specific case reporters are located on the 2nd floor. Make sure that you are accessing the Bluebook-approved reporter noted in Bluebook T1.
    • Our library no longer has a current subscription to several case reporters.  For example, the copies of F. and the F.Supp. reporters are no longer updated in our library.  Further, there is a lag between a case being published in those reporters and the PDF being available on Westlaw (approximately 3 months for F. and 6 months for F.Supp.) Therefore, you may find that you need a case for which there is no PDF and no copy in our library.  In those instances, you should place an ILL request for the case.   

Statutes: Codes.  "Official and unofficial codes arrange statutes currently in force by subject matter." (Bluebook Rule 12.1).

  • Check T1 in the Bluebook for the approved statutory compilation ("code"). Be aware that there is often more than one published version of a jurisdiction's code, and that the Bluebook will tell you which version you need to cite. If you are using state codes, please see the State Codes tab at the top of this Libguide for more information.
  • The Bluebook rule for putting the date (the year) on a citation to a code section requires that you use the printed version of the code.  This is because the required date for a code section is neither the year the section was enacted, nor the current year in which it is in force, but rather: "the year that appears on the spine of the volume, the year that appears on the title page, or the latest copyright year—in that order of preference." (See Bluebook Rule 12.3.2)
  • Because online databases tend not to provide PDF images of the spine, title page, or copyright page, the only way to determine the Bluebook-approved date is to pull the print volume from a shelf and view its spine, title page, and copyright page.
  • One possible exception is the official US Code which is available with dates in PDF versions on Heinonline.
  • In our library, federal codes are located on the 1st floor, and state codes are located on the 2nd floor.  If the library does not own a print copy of the Bluebook-approved code (sometimes we will only have an unofficial version of a code), you will have to inter-library loan (ILL) a copy from another library in order to find the correct year. 
  • If you are pulling state codes, make sure you check T1 in the Bluebook to confirm the version you need, and if you need to ILL a different version than we have in our library, please see the State Codes tab at the top of this Libguide for more information on ILLing a state code section.

Statutes: Session Laws.  "Official and privately published session laws report statutes in chronological order of enactment." (Bluebook Rule 12.1). Like codes, session laws are also statutes, but they refer to a law or act in its entirety as it was passed, rather than a section of that law or act as it was later codified.  A law typically starts as a bill, gets passed by a legislature, approved by a president or governor, published and bound first in a collection of “session laws” which are organized chronologically by order of passage, then published and bound later in “codes” or the familiar arrangement of subject matter topics (i.e. the 50 titles of the United States Code).  Bluebook Rule 12.2.2 explains the exceptions for when a Session Law would be cited instead of the current Code.

  • Heinonline has PDF versions of session laws for federal, state, and US territories. In Heinonline, locate federal session laws under "U.S. Statutes at Large" and locate state sessions laws under "Session Laws Library."
  • A citation to a federal session law looks like this: Pub.L. No. 91-190, § 102, 83 Stat. 852 (1970). The “Stat.” portion of the citation refers to a publication called “Statutes at Large” and it is the federal collection of session laws published chronologically before a law gets codified and published in the United States Code. 
  • A citation to a California session law looks like this: Toxic Mold Protection Act, ch. 584, 2001 Cal. Stat. 4775. The “Cal. Stat.” portion of the citation refers to a publication called “Statutes of California and Digests of Measures” where California session laws are published chronologically before they are codified and published in the California Code. 

Websites.  Locating and pulling a website as a source seems simple.  However one thing to keep in mind is the risk that links can break or the content therein can change.  Once you have verified a link in your cite check assignment, determine whether your journal is using Perma.cc to archive URLs and create permanent Perma links to insert in the article.  If so, please make yourself familiar with how to use Perma.cc by consulting our guide listed below.

UN Documents. UN documents can be located using the UN document symbol in the citation.

Human Rights Council Res. 26/9, Rep. of Human Rights Council, 26th Sess., June 10-27, 2014, A/HRC/RES/26/9 (June 14, 2014);

In the citation above, the UN document symbol is A/HRC/RES/26/9.  “Each UN document has a unique symbol at the top right of the document or on the cover page. Symbols include both letters and numbers. Some elements of the symbol have meaning, while other elements do not. The first component indicates the organ to which the document is submitted or the organ that is issuing the document. (A/ = General Assembly)." For more details, see http://research.un.org/en/docs/symbols.

  • If you have a United Nations Document Symbol, the easiest way to download a document is to add the symbol after the following URL:http://undocs.org/.  For example:
    • http:undocs.org/A/HRC/RES/26/9
  • Another place to start is: http://documents.un.org/

Newspapers. The 20th Edition of the Bluebook contains a different rule than the 19th Edition regarding newspapers. The 20th Edition of the Bluebook states "Online newspapers may be used in place of print newspapers" (Rule 16.6(f)).

  • When using an online version, the citation should be to the online version. It should not appear that you are citing to the print version if you have not checked the print version.

If you wish to try and locate a print version (or an equivalent PDF of the print):

  • You can look up the name of the newspaper (NOT the title of the article) in the library’s online catalog. If there is a catalog entry for that newspaper, it will not only give you a call number, so that you can locate the print copy or the microform, but if the library subscribes to that newspaper electronically, it will give you a link to the online database(s) that include(s) the newspaper. 
  • Or see our guide on locating newspapers here: Newspapers in the United States.
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Using the Library Catalogs

Using the UCLA Catalog

Whether you are looking for a physical volume in the library or looking to see whether the library has access to an electronic version of a source through a subscription database, begin with the UCLA Catalog.  When you type a title into the catalog, you will bring up the catalog record for that title.  In the catalog record, you can find (1) which campus library has the item (sometimes it will be in a library other than the Law Library), (2) the item’s Call Number so that you can locate it on the library shelf, and (3) if applicable, an electronic link to a database that has the item.   Be sure to check the available databases to ensure that they provide a PDF instead of a plain-text electronic version.

When using the UCLA Catalog, it is important to realize that the catalog includes titles of books, names of journals, and titles of government documents, but does not contain the titles of individual articles published in a journal.  So, if you are looking for this article:

  • Eugene Volokh, Medical Self-Defense, Prohibited Experimental Therapies, and Payment for Organs, 120 Harv. L. Rev. 1813 (2006).

You should search the catalog for the journal title (Harvard Law Review), NOT the title of Prof. Volokh’s article (Medical Self-Defense . . .).


Using WorldCat to Locate Materials Outside the UC System

The WorldCat database collects data on the holdings of libraries throughout the United States and the world. WorldCat can help you with your citecheck in two ways. First, you can search for a book, journal name, or other item to determine whether it has been properly cited, or whether there are problems with spelling, dates, etc.  Second, if UCLA does not own the item, WorldCat can help you determine whether any other libraries own a copy, so that you can make a request for inter-library loan (ILL). You can access WorldCat in two ways: through the WorldCat interface, or through the Melvyl interface.  The latter has a pull-down menu, allowing you to choose between searching "Libraries Worldwide", UC Libraries, or the UCLA Library.