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Cite-Checking Information for Student Publications: Locating Sources

Search Tips

How you search for a source depends upon what it is, i.e., book, court case, journal article, etc.

Suggested sources for finding several commonly cited types of materials (books, articles and newspaper articles) are included on this page.

Determining What You Need

For help deciphering abbreviations, consult:

Print vs. Electronic

If a source is available electronically via a Law Library subscription or a governmental website and a Bluebook provision provides for citing that source electronically, an interlibrary loan will not be initiated for the print equivalent, even when the print appears to be the preferred Bluebook source. (See complete policy.)

Some electronic documents do not have a print counterpart.

  • For example, a newspaper may publish an article online only, or the print version may differ from the online.
  • When you cite a source from the open web, we recommend printing or otherwise archiving the source, as URLs often change or disappear.

When online, unofficial versions are easily available and official versions have to be obtained via interlibrary loan, we recommend checking the unofficial version to make sure the cite is accurate before requesting the item through interlibrary loan.

Finding Books

Search SuperSearch, the Drake Libraries Catalog.

SuperSearch indicates whether Law or Cowles owns an item, its location and call number, and if it is checked out or on the shelf.


  • If the book you need is already checked out, please ask desk staff to place a hold on it for you, or place a hold yourself using the "My Account" feature in the catalog. This will prevent the book from being renewed. If the book has already been checked out for 3 weeks, staff will ask the patron to return it. This process is less expensive, and typically faster, than interlibrary loan and should be the first option tried.
  • If the catalog shows the book you need is on the shelf but it is not, please see the missing item tips.
  • Please remember that if a book is at the Cowles Library, you will need to go there to check it out.
  • For help using the catalog, please contact a reference librarian.

Finding Articles

You can first search SuperSearch by article citation. If that fails, enter the title of the journal (not the title of the article) to determine if Drake Law Library has access to the full text online or as part of its print collection.

Search for a journal:  
(or browse the Journals A-Z list)

If you cannot find an acceptable copy of the article using those resources, you can request an interlibrary loan as the next step, unless

  • You are looking for a newspaper article; please see information below.
  • Your journal is only available online, so there is not a hard-copy equivalent.
  • You need additional information to complete the cite. In this case, access an article database or ask a librarian for help.

Finding Newspaper Articles

If you are unsuccessful in locating a newspaper article using the above-listed sources, interlibrary loan may seem like the logical next step. However, it can be very difficult to obtain newspaper articles via interlibrary loan. In its Guide for Journal Source-Finders, the University of Minnesota Law Library offers this tip: “Most law review authors cite to newspaper articles they found on Westlaw, Lexis, or the internet. If they cite to a hard-to-find newspaper, or to wire services like Reuters or Associated Press, you can sometimes use newspaper databases to find a nearly-identical story in one of the major newspapers (Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, New York Times). If your editor won’t accept Westlaw, Lexis, or web versions of newspaper stories, ask if you can try finding a story in one of the major papers.”

In addition to the newspapers available in hard-copy and microform at the Drake Libraries, Cowles offers an array of searchable newspaper databases, including the following:

Strategies to Find Dead Links

Here are some tips for accessing web pages that no longer exist at the linked or cited location:

Double check the URL.
Make sure you typed the address as cited, including using the same case (upper or lower).

Search the root page.
Truncate the URL by deleting information up to each back slash and see if the page has been moved elsewhere on the site by browsing or using the site index or site search feature, if available. (In many search engines' advance search options, you can also specify the site to search.)

Try again later.
Check the URL as cited in a day or two. The site may just be down temporarily.

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