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Guide to Finding Law Journals and Journal Articles

Finding Law Articles Using Journal Indexes

Article databases and journal indexes allow you to search for articles across a number of journals at once which makes them the most efficient tools for locating journal articles. Each database will have search templates that allow you to search by keyword, title, author, etc. Generally these databases will include a help feature to explain the scope of the databases, and how the search syntax and search boxes work. Using the following search strategies will make your searches more efficient.

  • Use advanced search templates: If you know of a particular author or article title or subject that you would like to search for these templates will allow you to focus your search.
  • Follow the descriptors or subject headings: If you find an article that is on topic, search for other items using the same descriptors or subject headings. Electronic indexes will often provide links to authors and subject headings.
  • Truncate your search terms: Most of the databases allow you to truncate your search to pick up variants and plurals on the "roots" of your search term. Look at the help feature in order to find out the correct syntax for truncated searches.

Search Syntax Tips & Tricks

Every database has its own idiosyncratic search syntax so always check the help link before starting your research to ensure you are formulating your search properly. 

Boolean Operators

  • AND is used to narrow a search or to make it more specific. In a search for contraband AND tobacco, both search terms must be present. Items that contain only contraband, or only tobacco will not appear. 
  • OR is used for a broader search. In a search for Indigenous OR Aboriginal, either search term can appear in the results. This type of search is useful when looking for synonyms or different words for the same idea or concept. 
  • NOT is also used to narrow a search but it is done by exclusion. A search for assault NOT weapon will return items that contain the word assault but eliminates items that contain the word weapons. 

Truncation and Wild Cards


  • The truncation symbol will likely be an asterisk * or an apostrophe ! depending on the provider. This symbol will enable you to locate the all the endings of a particular root word. A search for tort*, for example, will locate tort, torts, tortuous, etc., but be careful as it will also find tortilla and others 

Wild Cards

  • Wild cards can be used to locate a single character within a word. The wild card symbol might be an asterisk, an exclamation mark, or a question mark. Wild cards are useful for words that have variant spellings, for example, marijuana and marihuana. A search for mari?uana will retrieve both spelling variants. 

Proximity Operators

  • Proximity operators enable you to find words within a certain proximity to one another. These operators will vary depending on the database but as one example, a search for tortuous /10 liability will search for all instances of the the word tortuous within 10 words of the world liability in any order.  
  • Quotation marks will search for an exact phrase, "tortuous liability".