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Guide for Journal Cite Checkers: Guide for Journal Cite Checkers

Cite checks are a tedious rite of passage in law school. This guide, and the Law Library’s reference staff, are here to help make this part of your law school life a little easier.

Read this before you get started!

Keep these things in mind as you work on your cite check:

  • You're likely to encounter incomplete or mistyped citations. Never fear! Most citation mysteries can be solved with just a little bit of sleuthing on the Internet, in law review datases, and/or in your author's files.

  • Your journal likely requires you to get hard copies or PDF images of sources. Luckily, more and more hard copies are being scanned and made available online. Keep in mind, though, that a source may exist only online and not in hard copy.  

  • Start your source-gathering in Virgo, U.Va.’s online card catalog. It will tell you what books, journals, newspapers, and government documents we have at U.Va. If U.Va. doesn't have a source you need, you can borrow it from another institution's library through interlibrary loan.

  • Contacting your author may be the best way to get an obscure source. If you have trouble finding a cited source, though, your readers probably will too. Consider whether an obscure publication, vanished website, or second-hand news article is the best source to support a point (sometimes it is), or if there is a more accessible and/or authoritative source that can be cited instead.

  • Flip to the Bluebook's index to locate rules on how to cite specific sources. If a Bluebook rule is vague or confusing, search law review articles to see how other authors formatted their citations to the source (in particular, the Yale Law Journal and Columbia, Harvard, and University of Pennsylvania Law Reviews since their editors compile the Bluebook).  See alsoCite-Checker: A Hands-On Guide to Learning Citation Form (in the first floor Reserve Room at KF245 .B68 2008)and the Guide to Foreign and International Legal Citations (Reserve Room at K89 .G85 2009).

  • Look up unfamiliar footnote abbreviations in the tables in the back of the Bluebook (Bluebooks are in the Reserve Room), the online Cardiff Index to Legal Abbreviations, or Prince’s Bieber’s Dictionary of Legal Abbreviations (in the Reference stacks at KF246 .B45 2009). 

  • Get help! Stop by the Reference Desk on the Library’s second floor, or email us at

Finding Electronic PDFs

Listed below are databases with PDF images of the types of sources you’re likely to be gathering. For cite checking purposes, downloading a PDF image is as good as having photocopied from the hardbound material yourself (so long as you're getting the PDF from a trusted source). Links to these databases are in the righthand column of this guide, and on the Law Library's homepage. Access databases from the comfort of your own home by configuring your computer for off-grounds access:


  • WestlawNext has PDFs of cases printed in West’s hard copy reporters (e.g., Federal 2d, Atlantic 2d, Southeastern 2d). Pull up your case in WestlawNext, and click on the “original image” PDF link next to the case name.

  • HeinOnline has PDFs of Supreme Court decisions from the U.S. Reports.  It also has United Kingdom cases printed in the English Reports (Eng. Rep.) from 1220-1827.

Statutes and regulations

  • HeinOnline has the U.S. Code (2006 ed. and earlier versions; current 2012 ed. is in the Library's Reference Stacks, with titles still incoming), U.S. Statutes at Large (1789-2009, 111th Cong. 1st Session), C.F.R. (1938-2013), and Federal Register (1936-to date).

  • The Government Printing Office’s documents website FDsys has PDFs of the C.F.R. (1996-2013), and Federal Register (1994-to date).

Congressional documents

  • ProQuest Congressional has a comprehensive collection of committee reports, the Congressional Record and its predecessors, and congressional hearings beginning with 1824.

  • HeinOnline also has the Congressional Record and its predecessors starting in 1789.

  • FDsys has bills (starting 103rd Congress, 1993-94).

  • Congressional committee reports are supposed to be parallel cited to the U.S. Code Congressional and Administrative News (U.S.C.C.A.N.) (Bluebook Rule 13.4). U.S.C.C.A.N. is available in hard copy in the Library's Reference stacks. 

Journal articles

  • Use the Journal Finder to link directly to journals available online, and to find them in hard copy at U.Va. If U.Va. doesn’t have a journal, use interlibrary loan.

    • HeinOnline has more than a thousand law reviews, most all the way back to the journal’s first year of publication.

    • JSTOR has social science journals in addition to law reviews.

    • For PDFs of recent articles, check journals’ websites.

  • You can also link from Google Scholar to articles in U.Va. databases: click “find this @ UVA libraries” next to the article:

Google Scholar - Find 

Newspaper articles 

The Law School Library gets the New York Times, Washington Post, Financial Times, Wall Street Journal, Richmond Times-Dispatch and Daily Progress every day, and keeps them in the Klaus Reading Room for one or two months.  If you need earlier articles, Alderman has the New York Times and Washington Post on microform, and Darden has the Wall Street Journal. Use our Journal Finder to locate other newspapers at U.Va.  For older newspaper articles try:

  • ProQuest Historical Newspapers has the Chicago Tribune (1849-1988),Los Angeles Times (1881-1988), New York Times (1851-2008), Wall Street Journal (1889-1994), and Washington Post (1877-1995) in searchable PDF.

  • America’s Historical Newspapers has selected issues of newspapers from cities nationwide, 1690-1991. Go to the “Newspaper Titles” tab to search within a particular publication. 

  • Nineteenth Century Newspapers has selected issues of 19th Century newspapers from across the country.


Documents from Court Cases (petitions, briefs, indictments, etc.)

  • In WestlawNext, check the “filings” tab for PDF images of parties’ briefs. 

  • BloombergLaw’s dockets database pulls federal court case documents directly from PACER, and also has documents from some state courts.

  • For Supreme Court cases, try SCOTUSblog’s “merits cases” section for PDFs of briefs back to the 2007 Term, the American Bar Association website’s links to merits briefs from terms back to 2003, and the Making of Modern Law subscription database for cases from 1832-1978.

  • Parties, especially organizations filing amici curiae briefs in a case, sometimes post their briefs on their website - Google!

Internet citations and sources

If a source exists in print, Bluebook prefers that you cite to that (or to PDF or authenticated versions you find online). See generally Bluebook Rule 18.2. Here are some tips for when an author’s draft footnote gives you nothing to go on other than a link to a webpage:

  • Check Virgo and WorldCat to see if the document exists in print. If so, cite to the print. If the document is available both in hard copy and online, cite to the hard copy and add an “available at” cite to the online version if it is identical to the print and “it will substantially improve access to the source cited” (see rule 18.2.3).

  • If your author’s link isn’t to a PDF or official version of the document, check to see if one is available.

  • If your author's URL leads you to a dead link, try shortening the URL to get to the website's main page and dig or search from there, or plug the document title into a search engine. Be aware that sometimes documents are taken down and never seen again. You can try to retrieve a vanished online source with the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine.



Finding hard copies in the Library

Go first to Virgo, the U.Va. libraries' online card catalog, to find hard copies of books, journals, newspapers, and congressional documents here at U.Va. A combination of title/author keywords in the basic search box usually works, but don’t give up if your first search doesn’t show the result you need. Try another search with simpler keywords; also try the advanced search screen. Virgo results are ordered by relevance. Click on the hyperlink for the item for its location, availability, and a map of where it is in the stacks. Here are some Virgo tips:

  • If an item is “unavailable” (Virgo-speak for checked out), click the “request unavailable item” link to recall it.  The person who has it should return it within 10 days.

  • If an item is in “Ivy” (the library storage facility), click the “request items from Ivy” link; delivery usually takes just a couple of days.

  • If Virgo says a book is on the shelf, but it’s not, first check to see if another cite-checker has it or if it is stashed it in your journal’s carrel.  Then check around the photocopiers, the re-shelving truck near the Reference Desk, and the re-shelving trucks at the Circulation Desk.

  • If a book, bound journal volume, or microform you need is in a Main Grounds libraries, the Law School Library’s Student Delivery Service can pick it up for you and deliver it to the Law Library circulation desk.  Request up to two items at a time, and allow 2-3 days.

Remember to check out your books to your journal’s carrel before putting them in there!  If a book, book chapter, or journal article you need isn’t at U.Va., you can request it through Interlibrary Loan (ILL). Here’s how:

  1. Double-check Virgo to make sure the item isn’t at U.Va.
  2. Look up OCLC, ISSN, and ISBN numbers in WorldCat, the online catalog for libraries worldwide (search for items as in Virgo, using keywords for title/author).  Once you’re in an item’s detailed record, scroll down to find the ISSN/ISBN and OCLC numbers and plug these into your ILL request form.
  3. Submit an online ILL request form:
    1. login to get to the ILL request forms (your first time, click on the “first time users” button to set up your interlibrary services account; be sure to select Law as your Pick Up Library/Home Library);
    2. choose the request form that matches your source (“borrow an item” for books, bound journals; “scan” for a chapter, article); and
    3. if you’re requesting a scan, use the drop-down menu at the top of the form to specify that your request is for a “law cite check.”  This lets the ILL department know you need a PDF. 
    4. You'll get an E-mail either notifying you that your item has been delivered to the circulation desk or with a link to a PDF of it. Interlibrary loan requests usually take a week or more (requests for scans usually take less time).fill in as much information as you can, including the OCLC number and ISSN/ISBN number (see below).


When you're stuck on a citation...

Sometimes a footnote you’re cite checking doesn’t give you enough information to locate the source, or has a misleading typo. To avoid a wild goose chase for the source

  • First check the related text in the article for additional information you can plug into a Google and/or Virgo search for the source.  Googling exact quotes your author includes from the mystery source often can lead you straight to it!

  • If your author is citing a source, other authors probably have cited the same source.  Run a search with the information you have about the source in Westlaw, Lexis, or Google Scholar’s databases of law review articles

  • If searching online and in law review articles' citations doesn’t lead you to a source, hit the books via online card catalogs and e-books. Search Virgo first. If U.Va. doesn’t have a hard copy, run a search in WorldCat to see if another institution’s library has it and then request an interlibrary loan (you can make interlibrary loan requests for PDF scans of individual book pages and chapters). If your first couple searches don’t work, try several broader ones.   

  • If you can’t find a source published as an article, book, or government document, maybe it wasn’t published at all but was just posted online. Try looking for the document title in a search engine or on an organization’s website. 

Cite Checkers' Guide

This guide has quick tips to help you locate sources for your cite check and deal with hard-to-find sources and tricky citations.  

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Index to Legal Periodicals



Library Liaisons for Law Journals

  • Journal of Law & Politics  
    Leslie Ashbrook
  • Virginia Environmental Law Journal
    Cathy Palombi
  • Virginia Journal of Criminal Law
    Kent Olson
  • Virginia Journal of International Law
    Ben Doherty
  • Virginia Journal of Law & Technology 
    Amy Wharton
  • Virginia Journal of Social Policy & the Law
    Joe Wynne
  • Virginia Law & Business Review
    Jon Ashley
  • Virginia Law Review
    Kristin Glover
  • Virginia Sports & Entertainment Law Journal
    Michael Klepper
  • Virginia Tax Review 
    John Roper