Frequently Asked Questions


Which databases should I use to find law reports?

Our answer:

Law students should be aware that there are three legal databases in which they may find the full text of law reports, each database produced by a different organisation:

Law reports may be found in only one of these databases, while others may be included in more than one. So, which database should you use? This will depend, to some extent, on whether you have a full citation for a particular case, a partial citation for a case, or whether you are simply searching for cases on a topic (without having any specific citations).

If you have a full citation for a case

If you already have a full citation for a case (for instance, a citation in one of the International Programmes module guides), the citation will give you an abbreviation for the law report in which the case was published, such as All ER (which stands for All England Law Reports). An example is given below:

R v Chalkley and Jeffries (1998) 2 All ER 155

If you are not sure of the meaning of an abbreviation, search the the Cardiff Index to Legal Abbreviations to find out the full title of the law report series. Then check the finding case reports online table or the A-Z Journals List to find out which database (Justis, Lexis®Library or Westlaw) contains the full text of that law report. In the example given above, you will see that the All England Law Reports are included in Lexis®Library, so you should search that database to find the full text of R v Chalkley and Jeffries.

If you only have the party names for a case

Sometimes you may only have the party names of a case such as Brown v Stott. Notice that this citation is incomplete, because it does not provide any details about the particular law report in which the case was published. If you only have the party names you can search JustisOne (which includes a case citator), to find out where a case was reported, and link directly to the full-text where available in the Online Library databases. JustCite cross-searches the Online Library legal databases so you don't have to search them individually.

Once you have logged into JustisOne with your student portal password, search for the case Brown v Stott using the search box on the homepage. You will see that the case was widely reported, for example at [2003] 1 AC 681, [2001] 2 WLR 817 and [2001] 2 All ER 97. JustisOne not only shows you where a case was reported, but also gives you key information such as, cited cases, cited legislation, and key subsequent citing cases. Select the citations and sources tab to link you to the full text law reports in the Online Library databases. JustisOne includes the precedent map feature which visually depicts the relationships between cases and helps you to discover other cases related to your research. For more information about JustisOne see the quick start guide.

If you are unable to find the full text of a case after searching the legal databases (JustisOne, Westlaw, and Lexis®Library), please contact the Online Library for assistance.

If you are searching for cases on a topic (without any specific citations)

The legal databases (JustisOne, Lexis®Library and Westlaw) allow you to search for cases on a topic, using keywords (e.g. "involuntary intoxication"). If you are not familiar with legal databases, you may wish to begin by searching all 3 databases. After gaining some experience of performing searches on each database, you may develop a preference for a particular database.

However, if you wish to be comprehensive in your search, you can begin by searching JustisOne, and then search the full-text legal databases individually. There is no single database which includes every law report, and therefore you may find cases on one database which do not appear on another. For instance, at the time of writing a free text search for cases concerning "involuntary intoxication" retrieved 39 cases from JustisOne, 38 cases from Lexis®Library and 28 cases from Westlaw.

For more information on searching for cases on a topic, please see How do I find reports on a topic.