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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 it can be a website if the governing authority has designated it as such).  See Rule 18 for more information.

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

Knowing where to look: Each of the tabs in the box below provides 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 for more information about using UC Library Search.

Locating common sources


  • First check to see if there is a copy on campus:
    • Use UC Library Search and click UCLA Library Catalog at the top of the screen.  Under Search Filters, click the drop-down menu where it says Any field and input your information (e.g. title, author, etc.).
    • If we have an item in any campus library, note the call number so that you can locate the book on the shelf. 
  • If none of our campus libraries 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 other UC campuses' libraries via UC Library Search (this time by clicking UC Libraries Catalog at the top of the screen) and/or non-UC libraries via UC Library Search (by clicking WorldCat Global Catalog at the top of the screen).  These searches will 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 HathiTrust to see if a full text PDF version is available.
    • Other places to look for a full text PDF version include University Press and HeinOnline.
    • Once you have completed all of steps in the ILL checklist, you may place an ILL request to obtain a copy from another library.  
  • UCLA Journal staff should refer to this MyLaw page for instruction on how to place a request for a book during periods of library closure such as for COVID-19.  

Law Review Articles

  • You may locate an online PDF version or a print volume on a library shelf
  • HeinOnline (a subscription database) has a large collection of law review articles in PDF form.

Non-Law Periodical Articles

  • For a thorough guide to searching for non-legal journal articles, see this LibGuide on the topic.
  • JSTOR (a subscription database) is one of numerous subscription databases with PDF versions of non-legal articles.

All Articles

  • Library catalog
    • The most reliable way to locate a publication is to look up the name of the journal (NOT the title of the individual article).
    • Click UC Library Search and then select UCLA Library Catalog at the top of the screen.  Under Search Filters, click the drop-down menu where it says Any field and input your information (e.g. title, author, etc.).
    • If there is a catalog entry for that journal, click the title to see the full record.
      • For print access, note the call number so that you can locate the print copy in the stacks.
      • For electronic access, scroll down to Online Access to see if the library subscribes to that journal electronically.  You may need to have your VPN or RDC enabled in order to access subscription databases.
  • Articles search
    • UC Library Search also allows users to search for individual article titles.  This search feature will not always produce a match, so it usually saves time to start with the publication title search described above.  To search this feature:
      • At the top of the screen, select Articles, books, and more.  Under Search Filters, click the drop-down menu where it says Any field and input your information (e.g. title, author, etc.).
      • Then follow the steps given above.
    • Google Scholar
      • You can also use Google Scholar to search by article title.
      • Make sure you have enabled your VPN or RDC.  If UCLA subscribes to the article online (e.g. through Heinonline, JSTOR, etc.), Google Scholar will provide a link to that content.
      • Because Google Scholar will not tell you whether we have the source on our library shelves, it is often more efficient to search the UCLA catalog first, as it will provide you with both print and electronic access 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 be cautious when using SSRN or other repositories for this purpose.

Access: Electronic versus Print

  • If you are having difficulty accessing our electronic databases from home, remember that our subscriptions are IP-authenticated; 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 might 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 Bluebook's requirement of checking a print or PDF source, you can find non-PDF articles in other online databases such as Lexis or Westlaw.


When cite checking cases, the Bluebook allows the use of digital copies if they are “authenticated, official, or an exact copy of the printed source."  (Bluebook Rule 18.2).

  • First, Check T1 in the Bluebook for the approved case reporter for each court and jurisdiction.
  • Try Fetch PDFsHeinOnlineWestlaw, 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 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 find print versions in the library.  In the UCLA Law Library, federal 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, copies of F. and 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) (emphasis added).

  • Choosing official or unofficial versions: The Bluebook (21st ed.) prefers but does not require citation to official state or federal codes.  (Rule 12.1).  Check T1 in the Bluebook for the preferred 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 is preferred.
    • Check with your journal to confirm the policy on using official/unofficial and print/online code versions.
    • Official versions: Most states publish their codes in an official bound volume (print) version.  Some states publish their codes in an official online version.  Some states have both.  The Bluebook (21st ed.) allows citation to online official state codes whenever available online (rather than when only available online, as was previously the case).
    • Unofficial versions: These can also come in bound volumes or online versions. 
  • Citing the date of the code: The Bluebook (21st ed.) does not require a date on a federal code citation.  You may choose to put the date on a federal code, if desired.  The Bluebook requires a date for state code citations.
    • When citing a bound volume of the current official or unofficial code, the Bluebook requires you to access the actual bound volumes in print.  This rule 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." (Bluebook Rule 12.3.2).
    • If you require the bound volumes of state codes in order to determine the proper date for your citation:
      • Check T1 in the Bluebook to confirm the preferred version.
      • Check the State Codes at UCLA document below for more information on whether our library owns the preferred version.
      • In our library, federal codes are located on the 1st floor, and state codes are located on the 2nd floor.
    • If you need the date for an online version of the code, see Bluebook Rule 12.5.

Statutes: Session Laws

"Official and privately published session laws report statutes in chronological order of enactment."  (Bluebook Rule 12.1) (emphasis added).

  • Background: 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 in a collection of “session laws” that are organized chronologically by order of passage, and then finally published and bound in “codes” or the familiar arrangement of subject matter topics (e.g. the 53 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.
  • Accessing PDFs of session laws: HeinOnline has PDF versions of session laws for federal, state, and US territories.  In Hein, locate federal session laws under "U.S. Statutes at Large" and locate state sessions laws under "Session Laws Library."
  • Citation format:
    • Federal: A citation to a federal session law looks like: Pub.L. No. 91-190, § 102, 83 Stat. 852 (1970).  The “Stat.” portion of the citation refers to a publication called “Statutes at Large,” which is the federal collection of session laws published chronologically before a law gets codified and published in the United States Code. 
    • State: A citation to a California session law looks like: 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. 


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 to archive URLs and create permanent Perma links to include in the article.  If so, please familiarize yourself with how to use by consulting our guide below, the Perma website itself, or in a later tab of this LibGuide!

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 information, visit About UN Documents

  • Important tip: If you have a United Nations Document Symbol, the easiest way to download a document is to add the symbol after the following URL:  For example:
  • Another place to start is the UN Documents database.
  • Last but not least, our law library has an entire LibGuide on UN materials.


Bluebook Rule 21.4.5 requires determining whether the United States is a party to the treaty and whether the treaty is bilateral or multilateral. 


Starting with the 20th Edition of the Bluebook, "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 locate a print version (or an equivalent PDF of the print):

  • Look up the name of the newspaper (NOT the title of the article) in the UCLA Catalog via UC Library Search. 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 any of our databases that include the newspaper. 
  • The law library also has an entire guide on locating newspapers: Newspapers in the United States.

Using the Library Catalogs

Searching the UCLA Catalog

Whether you are looking for a physical volume in the library or an electronic version of a source through a subscription database, begin with the UCLA Catalog via UC Library Search

  1. To limit your search to the UCLA collection, click UCLA Library Catalog at the top of the screen.
  2. Under Search Filters, click the drop-down menu where it says Any field and input your information (e.g. title, author, etc.). 
  3. Depending on how broad the search was, you may need to review a number of results.  When you see the right one, click the title, which will bring up the catalog record for that item. 

In the catalog record, look for:

  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 (for journal cite checking purposes, confirm that the database provides a PDF instead of a plain-text electronic version).

When using UC Library Search, it is important to realize that the catalog includes titles of books, names of journals, and titles of government documents, but it does not reliably contain the titles of individual articles published in a journal.

As an example, let's say you are looking for the following article:

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

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

Locating Materials Outside UCLA

The WorldCat database collects data on the holdings of libraries throughout the United States and the world.  WorldCat can help you with your cite check in two ways. 

  1. 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.
  2. 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 interlibrary loan (ILL).

You can access WorldCat in two ways: directly through the WorldCat interface or through UC Library Search (at the top, under Search for, select WorldCat Global Catalog).