This LibTour on Legal Periodicals & Books was written by Margaret Krause, Reference Librarian, Georgetown Law Library. You can download the audio file here.
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This CALI LibTour is an introduction to Legal Periodicals & Books, an index of law review articles and legal books written in the United States, Canada, Great Britain, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand. As an undergrad, you might have used the Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature, or WilsonWeb database, to find scholarly journal articles written on a particular subject. For legal literature, the H.W. Wilson Company produces the Legal Periodicals & Books annual indices to assist researchers in locating relevant articles by specific legal subjects.
Legal Periodicals & Books has been published since 1908, when it was originally titled the Index to Legal Periodicals & Books, or ILP. At that time it indexed just 39 legal publications. Today, articles from over 700 law journals are indexed by author, subject, and jurisdiction. Law review articles are indexed by broad subject areas, such as ethics, judicial independence, and self-incrimination. Researchers can quickly locate articles on a particular subject, by using this controlled vocabulary.
Today, many researchers use this set of indices as an online database, called Legal Periodicals & Books, which indexes legal articles & books back to 1981. For historical research, the database of Legal Periodicals Retro will offer subject & author access to the articles written from 1908 to 1981.
Just so you know how this set works, let’s try to locate articles written on the legal questions surrounding detainees at Guantanamo Bay. Let’s start our research in Volume 43, which covers September 2003 to August 2004. By simply looking up Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, which we find on page 742, we can identify a few articles written on this topic. For example, the first article is published in volume 21 of the Berkeley Journal of International Law on pages 662 to 682.
You’ll also notice on this page, the subject “Guardian and Ward”. Since this is primarily a legal issue legislated at the state level, you will see that the index has sub-headings by state, so you can identify an article on California laws related to guardian and ward. One other valuable feature of Legal Periodicals & Books is that it includes a Table of Cases and a Table of Statutes. In this volume 43, if you turn to page 1829, you’ll see what I mean. This is helpful if you want to locate law review articles written about a specific case, or a specific statute, such as the Clean Air Act.
To quickly identify relevant legal literature on a specific topic, make use of the Legal Periodicals & Books in print, or online on Lexis, Westlaw and WilsonWeb.