Journals and seminar papers

When to use journal articles

If the texts and encyclopedia entries you find are too general, are outdated, or don’t deal specifically with your jurisdiction, concentrate on finding journal articles or continuing legal education seminar papers. If you are writing an academic paper, periodicals research is essential. Journals should also be reviewed if there has been new legislation, or an interesting case that might be the subject of a case comment.

doc03Journal articles are particularly useful for developing policy arguments, and for close analysis of difficult cases. A narrow issue covered in a passing footnote in a text may be the subject of several pages of discussion in a journal article. Articles are usually well-footnoted, with references to primary sources or other secondary sources.

Finding the article once you have a citation

educOlder periodical articles will be available either in print or through Hein Online. If you have trouble locating a periodical at your library, check WorldCat or the publication Periodicals in Canadian Law Libraries for other libraries which subscribe to the periodical. Canadian periodicals abbreviations are listed in the ICLL Periodicals List.

More recent articles are likely to be available electronically. An alphabetical list of periodicals available in electronic form is maintained by the Bora Laskin Law Library. This list includes periodicals available on LexisWestlawQuicklaw, and the Internet and specifies where they are available. Another listing is maintained by the Supreme Court of Canada Library in Journal Titles A-Z. This listing includes details of Hein Online coverage. The WashLaw WEB law journal resource page also maintains an extensive listing of law journals with links to those available online.

Searching journals and seminar papers in full text

Many journals are now available in full text electronic form. This permits you to search directly using the words in the articles themselves to find relevant articles. The leading journal collections available in full text are as follows:

Quicklaw core subscription Canadian journals and the Lexis international journals collection
LawSource Canadian journals and case comments from topical reporters.
Hein Online Full text law journals in PDF format; the most recent issues are sometimes not included
Canadian Bar Review Full text of this publication can be accessed by CBA members at


The BC Courthouse Library has purchased a licence from Hein Online that enables registered members of the Law Society of BC to access Hein Online through the Courthouse Library website. The Hein Online collection is also available to students and faculty at most law schools.

The Continuing Legal Education Society of British Columbia has made its seminar papers since 2001 available online in full text through CLE Online. This is a paid subscription service, but some papers have been selected for free publication and are available under the heading Practice Points.

The Law Society of Upper Canada publishes its seminar papers on AccessCLE. Papers published during the previous 18 months are available for a fee. Papers prior to that date are available without charge.

connecThe Internet is a growing source for full text periodical searches. You can search full text legal periodicals on the Web using the University Law Review Project. Another popular source is Google Scholar, which indexes legal journals. A click takes you to a list of documents citing an article or case, and you can then search within those documents. You can also set up alerts to notify you of new articles in Google Scholar.

In addition, comments on recent legal developments in law firm newsletters published freely on the Internet can be a useful source of information. However, these articles are usually written for lay readers and are not a sophisticated review of the subject. For quick access to commentary published by law firms, search the Canadian Law Firm Websites, Blogs & Journals and Fee Fie Foe Firm Canada.

A collection of free case summaries and commentaries is being developed on CanLII Connects, with links to cases on CanLII. Contributors must be registered with and approved by CanLII.

Legal periodical indices

References in cases or texts may lead you to relevant journal articles. Full text databases of journal articles provide the easiest way to search for journals published electronically. However, many journals are not published electronically. Another common way to find journal articles is to look in a periodicals index.

The leading Canadian index is the Index to Canadian Legal Literature (ICLL), available on Quicklaw and LawSource. Another leading Canadian index is the freely available Scott Index to Canadian Legal Periodical Literature (via CAIJ).

This site has a table that provides information about the most commonly used print and electronic legal periodical indices.

Searching periodicals indices in print and electronic media requires creativity and persistence in generating search terms.

  • Some indices rely primarily on the title of the article as an access point for researchers. Given the strange titles often used for academic articles, this is not a reliable way to locate relevant articles.
  • All periodicals indices have a subject classification scheme, but the depth and consistency of the classification scheme varies considerably from one index to another.
  • Very few of the indices have searchable abstracts to help you.

So try your search in a variety of indices. You may find it helpful to acquaint yourself with the subject classification scheme for the index by looking at the print version before you carry out your electronic search. When offered random keyword searching, as well as a more structured classification scheme approach, try both methods.

Using RSS feeds and automated clipping services

envelop1Lexis, WestlawNext CanadaQuicklaw and Westlaw each have an automated clipping service that permits you to conduct periodic searches of particular databases and have the results delivered to you by e-mail. This is useful for conducting regular searches of periodicals indices and full text periodicals on topics you are following.

RSS feeds and alerts can help you keep current with the most recent articles.

  • The Bora Laskin Law Library Reference Services Weblog publishes a monthly list of recent contents for Canadian law journals. Subscribe by RSS feed to be notified each month of new journal articles.
  • Google Scholar does not have RSS alerts. However, you can subscribe to receive an email alert for new papers that meet your search criteria.



Best, Periodicals Indexes.

Bora Laskin Law Library, Alphabetical Listing of Electronic Journals.

University of Calgary, Law Library Research Guides, Periodical Articles.