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Getting Started in Research for a Thesis: Finding Journals on a Topic

This guide will help law PhD and MPhil students to begin their legal research using the University Library's resources

Finding Journal Articles

General Searching and Result Tips

  • Full text vs Indexes/Abstracts: Most journal databases can be found in our research databases by type . Select journal articles from the options on the left. We strongly advise using journal abstracting/indexing services such as Index to Legal Periodicals and LegalTrac to begin your research. Beware full text journal databases such as those on Westlaw , and HeinOnline when you begin your searching, because:
    • They are massive databases, so unless you construct targeted searches suing field searching in HeinOnline and Westlaw and segment searching in you will receive too many results, many of which are not directly relevant because the words can appear anywhere in the text.
    • Use proximity operators and field searching in Westlaw or segment searching in when searching these databases. Check Help screens or Searching Tips in each database to find out if the database allows proximity search.
    • In Westlaw you can also search journal articles using Natural Language search. This search  allows you to enter your query as a statement, question or a collection of terms in plain English to retrieve documents. Your results will appear in order of most relevance.


Constructing Searches

All databases have readily available onscreen help information to assist in constructing more complex searches using different fields or by using eg: Boolean and proximity operators, and truncation and wildcards.

Alternative Terminology & spelling: consider also using alternative terminology in your searches such as synonyms and use spelling variations (example: labour / labor)

Using Subject Headings - if you find a good article, use the SUBJECT headings to find more articles.


Date ranges of databases

Be aware of the date ranges of databases. Most databases commence in the early to mid-1980s – so if you are looking for earlier legal periodicals, try including eg: 1) Index to Legal Periodicals Retrospective in your searches - this database indexes articles from the first volume of each journal title in the database; and 2) HEIN Online Law Journal Library which contains the full text of all articles from the first volume of every journal in the database.

Bibliographies and Alerts

Bibliographies in Retrieved Articles/Books: use the bibliographies in relevant articles and books to find earlier relevant articles etc.

Alerts: When using databases, you can often set up alerts for saved searches once you have conducted a search. Learn how to set up an alert by referring to the research guide Keeping up to date in Law.