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Law Journals

Troubleshooting Bad Citations and Tricky Sources

It's common for authors to make errors when citing sources- that's why law reviews collect sources in the first place!

If you can't find a source, try these trouble shooting tips:

  • Instead of searching a full title, search only the most important or unique keywords. (E.g. Instead of "Understanding Bioethics and the Law: The Promises and Perils of the Brave New World of Biotechnology," search bioethics biotechnology promises perils.)
  • For author's names, search common alternative spellings and nicknames (e.g. Katherine, Catherine, Kathy, and Cathy)
  • Search the title, author, or citation in Google or Google Scholar. Often other authors will have cited the same source more completely and correctly, putting you on the right track.

Finally, remember that you can always contact a reference librarian for help by stopping by the reference desk or emailing We're happy to suggest additional strategies- or, in some cases, confirm that your editor will need to contact the author or place an interlibrary loan request.

Old Webpages

What if your citation leads you to a website that has since changed or been taken down? How can you confirm the information that was on that page? 

One way around this problem is to use the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine. The Wayback Machine allows you to access websites as captured on previous dates. To use, paste the URL from your cite into the search bar and select a date close to the time the author accessed the site. 

For example, let's look for an earlier version of the LLS library website: 

1. Enter the URL into the Wayback Machine (the tan search bar at the top)

Wayback Machine Search Page

2.  Select a relevant year and date from the timeline. 

Wayback Machine Calendar

3. Access the old webpage!

Wayback Machine Result Example



Placing Interlibrary Loan Requests

If a source is available from other libraries, please let your editor know, so they can place an interlibrary loan request:

Please do not place the request yourself. Every year our interlibrary loan staff are forced to sort through multiple requests for the same sources by law review staffers working on the same article. Spare them (and you!) the work and ask your editor to place the request instead.

Once the request has been placed, our interlibrary loan staff will obtain a copy of the source from another library. Depending on how many libraries own the source and how amenable they are to sharing it, the source may arrive in anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. Once the source arrives, our interlibrary loan staff will email the requester to let them know the source is available at the front desk for checkout.