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Boatwright Memorial Library

Databases for Legal Research

Students taking this course for Law credit are strongly urged to contact Heather Casey for assistance.
Phone: (804) 289-8727

You can find law review articles and other periodicals using any of these databases:


Finding Cases Using LexisNexis Academic

  1. Click here to access LexisNexis Academic.
  2. Type in your search terms and click enter. 
  3. LexisNexis Academic allows you to limit your search. 
    • You can select from searching only state cases, or only federal cases, or both.
    • You can also search for cases within a certain time period.
  4. If you know the name of the case, you may select "Party Names" from the drop-down options.
  5. If you know the citation, you may select "Citation" from the drop-down options.
  6. LexisNexis Academic also allows you to search by the judge's last name or the attorney's name.

Make sure your case is still good law!

Shepard's is a tool for finding cases that have cited, or affected, a given case. Use Shepard's to make sure that a case you have found has not been reversed, overruled, or criticized. Shepard's can also help expand your research by leading you to other cases that are on the same topic because they interpret your case.

Begin by accessing LexisNexis Academic, make sure you're in the Legal section, then select Shepard's Citations. Type the citation for your case (e.g., 333 N.W.2d 464) and click the Check button. Your resulting report will list all the cases and law reviews that cite your case. It will also tell you whether the citations are positive or negative. Don't assume a negative citation means your case is not good law. Read the cases to find out what their effects are.

Legal Encyclopedias

A legal encyclopedia is a comprehensive set of brief articles on legal topics. It is a great source to start with, when you are just beginning to learn about a topic in the law.  Legal encyclopedias are arranged in alphabetical order by topic, and most of them include an index. The most popular general legal encyclopedias is American Jurisprudence, 2d (AmJur). AmJur2d is located in the Law Library at Reference KF132 .L38 2d, and it is also on LexisNexis Academic.  In addition, there are numerous state legal encyclopedias. A legal encyclopedia specifically targeting Virginia law is Michie's Jurisprudence.

There are two primary uses for legal encyclopedias.

1. The articles can serve as a general introduction to an area of law which is new to you.

2. Encyclopedias are a way to find citations to cases and other useful materials on a particular issue.

Note: The discussion in legal encyclopedias is not intended to be authoritative sources on the law in any area. Legal encyclopedias are only meant to aid you in understanding the law and in finding cases that govern your question.


1.    Use the General Index to gain access to the desired topic.

2.    For greater detail, consult the Topic Index. The Topic Index is located inside each individual volume.

3.    Always make sure to check the pocket part for newer material.