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Journal Cite Checking Guide: Getting Started


Quick Tips

  • Ask for assistance early and often from the Reference Librarians via email, phone, 480-965-7161, or in person at the Reference Desk. You can also Make an Appointment with a librarian.

           Librarians Can: ‚Äč

  • Suggest a research strategy if you don’t know where to start.
  • Teach you how to use the ASU Libraries Catalog
  • Recommend the best research databases
  • Advise you on finding hard to locate sources
  • And much more!
  • Use this librarian’s trick if you think there is something wrong with the citation: using the citation information that you have, run a search in Westlaw’s or LexisNexis’ law reviews database to find another article that has already cited to your source.  But don’t rely solely on this information, as sometimes this method perpetuates errors.
  • If the article you are searching for is recent and unavailable in the Ross-Blakley Law Library’s print or on-line collections, go to the law review’s website. Many times the most recent editions will be available in PDF.
  • LexisNexis and Westlaw are not the best sources for cite-checking because they rarely provide documents in PDF format.

  • Do not delay in attempting to locate difficult sources.  It may take time to receive sources that need to be borrowed from other libraries.

  • It may be helpful to separate sources by type  (cases, statutes, journal articles) and then utilize the specific tools/resources that work best for each source.

  • Bieber's Dictionary of Legal Abbreviations and Cardiff Index to Legal Abbreviations can be used to decipher uncommon or difficult citations. 

  • If you can't find a website, blog or other online materials cited by the author, try using the Wayback Machine. The Wayback Machine is a digital archive of the World Wide Web and other information on the Internet created by the Internet Archive. The Internet Archive collects web pages that are publicly available. They do not archive pages that require a password to access or pages on secure servers.

  • If a book that you need is checked out of the Library, there's a good chance that someone working on the same article already has it. 


Members of the College of Law's student publications may check out most regularly circulating books from the Law Library and ASU libraries for use in conjunction with their cite-checking assignments.

Books are checked out to the requesting student’s individual library account and are subject to all policies regarding library material. Any fees accrued are the responsibility of the student who checked out the material.

Please do not relocate library books to the journal office without first checking the items out.  
Library carts may be used to transport items to the journals office, but should be unloaded and immediately returned to the Circulation Desk on the 3rd floor.

All materials relocated to the journals office must be returned to the Law Library Circulation Desk when the cite check is complete.  The journals office must be cleared of library materials at the end of the year.


If a source you need is not available through ASU, we can obtain the material from a library outside of ASU through interlibrary loan (ILL).  ILL requests can be placed through the search process in the library catalog.  If you complete a catalog search for an item that is not owned by ASU or is checked out, you will see a Request from an external library link in the item’s record.  Using this link will submit an ILL request.  If no record exists in the catalog for the item you are searching, using the Looking for a Specific Item? tab at the top of the catalog page will also take you to the request form.
Plan ahead and place ILL requests as early as possible.  If you do not need the entire book, request only the necessary pages instead.  It can sometimes take up to 2 weeks for a requested book to arrive, whereas scanned pages are usually received electronically within 1-5 days.  If the total number of pages exceeds what is allowed under copyright restrictions, we will request a loan of the book.
To ensure your requests are processed quickly and you receive the correct source material, please provide as much information as possible on the request form.  If you do not have a complete citation, check with a law librarian for assistance in completing the citation before requesting an ILL.  
You will receive an email with the requested pages attached or an email notification when a requested book arrives.  The due dates for ILL books are determined by the lending library, so be sure to pick up the books promptly in order to maximize the amount of time the material is available to you.
ILL books will have a blue book wrap around the front cover.  This wrap contains the due date, renewal information, and makes the book easily identifiable as an interlibrary loan.  Please do not remove the book wrap!
We will make every attempt to obtain all requested items.  However, the following types of materials can be difficult to obtain through interlibrary loan:
Recently published books
Entire issues of journals
Newspaper articles from print sources
Titles published in loose-leaf format.  Copies are ok, but most libraries will not loan the entire volume.
Multi-volume sets
Reference works 
Audio-Visual materials
Rare books or original manuscripts

Please contact Carrie Henteleff with ILL questions, 480-965-7114


It’s difficult, if not impossible, for the library to obtain the following for you:

  • Print versions (or PDF or microform copies) of most newspapers. It is likely the author did not cite a print version of the newspaper but instead used an online version.
  • Official versions of foreign laws in English.
  • Drafts or internal documents that the author obtained through professional contacts, e.g., internal government agency memos.
  • Paper copies of materials that exist only online, e.g., “born digital” sources such as blogs, WTO documents, etc.
  • Just the “front matter” of a journal or book that is otherwise available in an acceptable on-line format.
  • Reference materials, reserve materials, rare books, and multi-volume sets from other libraries:  their catalog may list them as “available” but that doesn’t mean they’re “loanable.”

What do you do if we can't get a resource you need: ASK THE AUTHOR


In Person
The Law Library's reference librarians are here to help you find or navigate research resources. The Reference Desk is located on the 3rd floor of the Arizona Center for Law and Society.

Reference Hours
Monday – Friday          9:00 am - 4:00 pm

By Email
Use our email reference service to ask any question you might ask at the Law Library. Replies are usually sent within 24 hours.

By Phone
Please call us at (480) 965-6144

Law Students
You can Make an Appointment with a Librarian for one-on-one research assistance. Include a description of your topic and times you are available to meet.  A librarian will contact you to set up an appointment. 


Law Library of Congress 
The Law Library of Congress provides legal and legislative research assistance for foreign, international, federal, and state law. If you are having a difficult time tracking down the resource you need, consider submitting an online inquiry for assistance. You will receive a response within 5 business days. 


If you have an article citation that is missing certain pieces of information (e.g., an article citation without a volume number and the year of publication) or if it appears your citation has incorrect information, you can try to do some detective work to obtain a better citation. Both Google Books and Google Scholar. and law journal databases/sources on LexisNexis and Westlaw can be useful tools in these situations. Use as your search terms the keywords from the citation that you believe to be accurate to see if you can either pull up the article directly or find a source that has accurately cited that article.

You can also try using one or more of ASU Libraries' Research Databases to see if you can obtain a better citation. Some of the periodical databases accessible from these sites provide full-text coverage in PDF for all articles included in the databases, while others only provide citations or a mix of citations and full text (in PDF and/or non-PDF).

Remember to Ask a Librarian. We love to find hard to find sources.