Using electronic legal resources at Oxford
This tutorial is designed to introduce some of the legal and journal databases available to Oxford students. While legal materials are increasingly available for free online, many legal materials, and particularly the most authoritative sources, are only available via the subscription databases. The Bodleian Law Library (BLL) holds the most extensive collection of electronic legal sources in the UK. On this page you will learn about:
- how to access the legal and journal databases
- online guides to using legal databases
- free legal sources on the internet
- an online tutorial for finding legal sources
- a guide for citing legal sources.
How to access the legal and journal databases
There is more information about searching for databases on the 'Electronic Sources for Case Law', 'Electronic Sources for Legislation' and 'Online journals & indexes' pages. However, here is a brief guide to the main interfaces for electronic sources:
- The BLL's Legal Databases web page is the best access point. Links to Westlaw, Lexis Library etc take you straight to the access point for members of Oxford University. Information is provided about each legal database which is helpful if you're not sure which database to use, and acces to special passwords is provided for the the databases that require them.
- SOLO - this search interface is in continual development. It is now possible to access most legal databases such as Westlaw and Lexis Library and online journals via SOLO, and some journal articles can be located by author and title in SOLO's - Articles. SOLO is also a search tool for electronic journals. Search by journal name (eg Modern Law Review or Ratio Juris).
If searching for electronic sources for cases, legislation and journals on the internet (rather than by the methods suggested above), it is important to find the password entry point for Oxford University subscribers. Look for Home Organisation or UK Access Federation, both of which should enable your Oxford shibboleth password. If you use the VPN you will have less trouble getting access to sources from outside Oxford.
Online guides to using legal databases
There are Oxford LibGuides to using the main legal databases -- Lexis Library, Westlaw UK and Westlaw International (for Australian, Canadian, US and some other materials), Justis and Justcite, i-Law and HeinOnline -- on the Oxford LibGuides pages. You will also find useful advice about legal research generally and particularly for mooting on those pages.
Westlaw UK and LexisNexis both have online help. Justcite has their own Proficiency Test and Certificate.
The BLL provides information about using the wireless network in the library and computer access generally.
Using free legal sources on the internet
While much electronic legal material is only available on subscription, the Legal Information Institutes and some courts provide the law for free:
- BAILII provides most UK judgments since about 2001, a growing number of transcripts of older cases from the higher courts, legislation, Law Commission reports and other materials.
- Legislation.gov.uk provides UK Statutes and Secondary Instruments, but it should be used with caution as it is not up-to-date.
- Eurlex provides ECJ judgments, legislation and other sources from the EU. The simple search is easiest to use (search for the case number in the 'natural number' field and and tick the court, or search for legislation using the year and document number). Curia also provides EU primary sources.
- HUDOC holds judgments and related materials from the European Court of Human Rights.
- Austlii has almost all Australian cases, legislation and other sources; Canlii has most Canadian cases and legislation (search in field 2); Cornell provides links to US primary legal sources and WorldLII provides access cases, legislation and other legal sources from many jurisdictions, and holds International Law judgments.
Cite your sources!
When using online resources, always ask questions about the authority of the site, such as 'Who is the author of the site?' and 'How frequently is it updated?' When using material from websites in essays and presentations, always provide the source of the material. You need to provide the source for direct quotes, but you also have to provide the source for ideas, conceptions and arguments, and paraphrased material. This practice of citing one's sources is expected in universities, and indicates that you have read widely in preparing your work.
For more information about citing sources: