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 which contain law reports:

Law reports may be found one or more of these databases. 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 module guides), the citation will give you an abbreviation for the law report in which the case was reported, such as All ER (which stands for All England Law Reports). For example:

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 (vLex Justis, Lexis+ or Westlaw) contains that law report. In the example given above, you will see that the All England Law Reports are available in Lexis+, 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 vLex Justis (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. vLex Justis cross-searches the Online Library legal databases so you don't have to search them individually.

Once you have logged into vlex Justis 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. vLex Justis not only shows you where a case was reported, but also gives you key information such as, cited authorities, 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. vLex Justis 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 vLex Justis see the quick start guide.

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

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

The legal databases (vLex Justis, Lexis+ 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 vLex Justis, and then search the 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 27 cases from vLex Justis, 32 cases from Lexis+ and 46 cases from Westlaw.

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