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Source Collection Triage Guide: Primary Sources


Many U.S. cases are available in Westlaw as page image format (PDFs) from the National Reporter System, including citations from:

  • Federal cases - F., F.2d and F3d; F. Supp. and F. Supp. 2d
  • State cases - A. and A.2d; Cal. Rptr., Cal. Rptr. 2d and Cal. Rptr. 3d; N.E. and N.E.2d; N.W. and N.W.2d; P., P.2d and P.3d; S.E. and S.E.2d; So., So. 2d and So. 3d; S.W., S.W.2d and S.W.3d

U.S. and Canadian Supreme Court cases are available in page image format (PDFs) from Hein Online:

If not in Westlaw or Hein Online, search for court reporters in print using the Law Library catalog:

  • Search by the title of the source, if you can determine the exact name using Table 1 (for American jurisdictions) or Table 2 (for many foreign jurisdictions) of the Bluebook. Use whole words, not abbreviations (Bulletin des arrêts de la Cour de cassation: Chambres Civiles, not Bull. civ.)


Codified law citations - Different journals have differing policies about whether a non-page image copy is acceptable. If it is, type the code citation into the appropriate search or "find by citation" box in Westlaw or Lexis. If you must have page image copies -

  • Federal - use the United States Code collection on Hein Online; select the most current volume (including Supplements) in which the cited section appears.
  • California - copy or scan (for free) at the BookScan stations, from the West's or Deerings annotated California Codes in the Reserve Collection or the Main Reading Room; be sure to check pocket parts.
  • Other states - we only have current state codes in print for California; check if the state website offers copies of page image sources.

Session law citations - Hein Online provides page image copies, as required by some journals, for most years for most jurisdictions: 

  • Federal - use the U.S. Statutes at Large collection on Hein Online; look up by volume/page citation ("___ Stat. ___") or Public Law number ("Pub. L. No. ___-___" or "P.L. ___-___").
  • States - use the Session Laws Library on Hein Online; look up by state, year of enactment, and page or chapter/statute/act number.
  • If the session law you need is not included, check with a Reference Librarian.

Historical code citations - in rare cases, an author may cite to a codified provision as it existed at a particular date, rather than to the current code.

  • Federal - use the United States Code collection on Hein Online; select the closest main volume before the year (and check the Supplement volume of the year) for which the author is citing the historic code provision.
  • California and other states - Hein Online provides page image copies for many historic versions of state codes (varies by jurisdiction) in the State Statutes: A Historical Archive collection

Legislative Documents

Federal legislative documents (legislative history or congressional documents):

  • Congressional debate (Cong. Rec. and its predecessors, Cong. Globe, Reg. Deb., and Annals of Cong.) - 
    • use Hein Online's U.S. Congressional Documents collection; select title, then volume and page numbers;
    • where a citation to Cong. Rec. has a page number with a letter (S, H or D) preceding the digits, it is cited to the Congressional Record Daily Edition; this is often an error on the writer's part, since generally, once the permanent edition version has been issued, that is the version the Bluebook requires to be cited. Double-check with the article editor to make sure the Daily Edition should be collected; volumes 126-current (1980-) are available in Hein Online's U.S. Congressional Documents collection.
  •  Congressional bills, documents, hearings, prints, reports, etc.:
    • use ProQuest Congressional, on the Search by Number tab; select the document type, congressional session, and number from the citation;
    • if not found on Proquest, try THOMAS (the Library of Congress's site) for committee hearings and committee reports from 1995-96 to current (104th Cong. to current), or for bills and resolutions from 1989-90 to current (101st Cong. to current).

State legislative citations may be difficult to recognize, and are often difficult or impossible to track down. Don't drive yourself nuts on these - See a Reference Librarian (they're already nuts).

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