Legal Research for Non-Law Students

This guide is designed for non-law students who are researching a legal issue.

Contact the Law Library

The Law Library's Reference Librarians are available from 9AM - 5PM, M - F. 

Email us and we will respond as quickly as possible. 

Stop by the Circulation Desk and ask to speak to a reference librarian. 

Call 615-343-8731 and ask to speak to a reference librarian. 

Searching Law Journals and Legal Periodicals

To find articles in journals, you will generally consult an index (in paper or online) or search online for full text.

I. Indices/Law Periodicals

A great trick for finding relevant legal scholarship is to search a legal periodical index. Indices allow you to search by a specific subject or term. They are not doing a full-text search, but rather allow you to locate all of teh scholarship tagged with a specific subject, or containing a term in a selected number of fields (title, author, abstract).

Any of the indices mentioned below is designed to provide you with a specific citation to a specific article. Armed with a specific citation you can locate the cited literature by searching our library catalog. If our library does not own the publication you seek, then you can request it from interlibrary loan, an online service of this library.

II. Full-text and Field Searching

In many instances, the specific journal article you wish to read can be found on a full text database. Or if you would prefer to start with a full-text search, rather than an index search, there are many different places to locate relevant articles related to your subject. Keep in mind that you might be able to more efficiently locate material by searching specific fields in an advanced search.

Here are some of our favorite resources for full-text and field searching of law journal articles:

Searching for Specific Titles (Looking for a Book or Article by Name)

To locate a book or article by name, just search the Vanderbilt Library Catalog!

If you aren't on Vanderbilt's campus, or just want to search a more global catalog, try Worldcat. 

If you are trying to find more information about a book, locate pincites, or just see what books mention certain words, Google Books allows for full-text searching. You may not always be able to access the content of the book, due to copyright, but it is another way to search to locate titles.

If you are looking for full-text of historical material, HathiTrust can be a great place to start.

Working Papers, Unpublished Scholarship, Theses and Dissertations

Below are some links to databases that contain working papers, unpublished scholarship, theses, and dissertations.