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Law: New Law Students: Getting Started

How to find law reports, journal articles and other sources of legal information

McClay Library tours - September 2023

We will be holding drop-in Welcome Tours here the McClay Library for new students during the last three weeks of September, with times as follows:

  • Monday 11 – Friday 15 September: 11am and 2pm daily
  • Monday 18 – Friday 22 September: 11am, 12 noon, 2pm and 3pm daily
  • Monday 25 – Friday 29 September: 11am, 12 noon, 2pm and 3pm daily

Key points for new students at Queen's

Welcome to Queen's!

As a new law student there are 5 things you need to know now:

  1. What is academic content?
  2. What about legal content?
  3. How will you know what content you need?
  4. How to navigate around the McClay Library - and how to use the Library to borrow books, study, scan or photocopy material
  5. How to get help or make contact with us

1. Types of academic content

Academic content has been peer-reviewed before publication. This means that academic experts in the subject area have reviewed and checked it for quality. So you can trust it is high quality and acceptable to use in your assignments.

There are three main types of academic content you will be expected to find as a university student: books, chapters in books and journal articles. The main vehicle you will use to find content is your Queen's University Library catalogue


1. Books 
Finch, E and Fafinski, S, Legal skills (8th edn, OUP, 2021)  ​

To help you identify the correct book on your reading list, note the first author, edition and publication year. To find this specific book type the author surname and the title into the Library catalogue. This book is only available as a print book, but there are Short Loan as well as Standard Loan copies in the Library. Standard Loan copies may be found on Floor 2 of the McClay Library at Shelfmark KL131.35 FINC

To search for books, go to the Library website and use Library Catalogue. Type in a few words from the title of the book you need, or type in a keyword to view all books in the Library about that topic. The Library Catalogue will show the locations of all print copies of books that you can borrow. It will also include links to any books are available for you read on-line in e-book format.


2. Chapter in books 
Connors, J and Schmidt, M, 'United Nations' in Moeckli, D, Shah, S and Sivakumaran, S (eds) International human rights law (3rd edn, OUP 2018) pp 369-424 ​

Note the word "in". The chapter here is called 'United Nations'. It was published as a book called International human rights law. To find this chapter, search the Library Catalogue using the first editor of the book and the book title. When you have the book, check the the contents page to find the chapter you need. 


Book not available?
  • Is the the print book you need on loan? You may request it's return. Simply sign in to the Library Catalogue as prompted from the results page and place a request. The book will be recalled from the current reader who will have seven days to return it. When the book is returned you will receive a notification to your Queen's email address.
  • If the book you need does not appear in our catalogue, please email your Subject Librarian, who will investigate purchasing.


3. Journal articles 
David Nelken, 'Using the Concept of Legal Culture' (2004) 29 Australian Journal of Legal Philosophy 1

Note the year, 2004, the volume number 29 and first page of the article here: 1. Journals are published periodically, usually several times a year, so there could be several volumes for the same year. There are two ways to find this:

  • First, copy and paste the title into Library Catalogue. Tip: if you know the exact title, search for it using "double quotation marks" around the words you are using.
  • If this doesn't work, find out if this is an ejournal by checking Journal Search, located just above the Library catalogue. Then locate the Year and Volume number. When you have found the correct volume, look through the contents until you find the article you need.

Library Catalogue (Search anything) will search across all the journals subscribed to by the Library, and display a list of articles relevant to your topic. Read, and download an article by clicking on the link that appears underneath the article details. Follow the link through to the relevant publisher's website and log in with your student number and password if prompted to do so. Most articles will be available for you to print or save in PDF format.

If you want to search within one specific journal go to Journal Search to look for the journal you need of browse by first letter. If the Library subscribes to the journal, it will appear in the list of results. Click the Full Text link to access content. 

2. Finding legal content

The main types of legal content you will need to find are cases and legislation. As a law student, you will be expected to use legal databases to search for legal content. 


Case law references

Giles v Thompson [1993] 2 W.L.R. 908  - law report only

Corr v IBC Vehicles Ltd [2008] UKHL 13, [2008] 1 AC 884 - a neutral citation, but in line with good practice the law report has been included. See Finding cases.  


Legislation references

Human Rights Act 1998

Human Rights Act, s 15(1) (b) - Specifically citing paragraph (b) of subsection (1) of section 15


The main legal databases we use at Queen's are:



Find these databases and others in the Law Databases A-Z on this guide, or on the Library Catalogue page in the Databases link. 

3. How will I know what content I need?

To get started, refer to your module handbook or reading list provided by your tutor. This will provide details of all material you need to read for your assignments. Much of this content may be available to you on Canvas, but in some cases you may be expected to find books, book chapters and journal articles yourself using the Library at Queen's. This guide will get you started. 

If you would like a refresher on academic expectations and working with scholarly material at university the best place to start is with our short Transition Skills online course. This will outline what is expected of you at university.

4.The McClay Library





  • Always bring your student card with you to the Library
  • The McClay Library operates a controlled entry system
  • Use your student card to gain admission to the Library building



Study spaces in the McClay Library



  • Study spaces are located throughout The McClay Library
  • Note Silent and Whisper Zones
  • Do not eat food in the Library. Only bring in drinks with lids
  • Photocopiers and scanners are located on each floor of the Library. Upload money onto your Student Card to pay for printing. Scanning is free, but you need a £1.00 balance to operate this service. You will need to use your card to release printing.




  • Although many book in the Library are available as ebooks, some titles are only available as print books.
  • In subjects such as Law print remains an important format from which to access content.
  • Undergraduate students may borrow 15 books at a time. Find out more here. To borrow, use contactless self-service borrowing stations located on all floors of the Library

5. Getting help and making contact

Compass image -  getting help

Library Chat: monitored by Queen’s Library staff. A good first port of call if you are lost online. Find Library Chat on the Library homepage.

Library Help FAQs : quick, focused answers to common questions.

This subject guide: content updated by your Subject Librarian. Included links to resources and tips on how to get best use out of the Library.

Your Subject Librarian: make initial contact via email. Email queries, questions or comments or arrange to meet for a one-to-one skills session via MS Teams

AHSS Digital Champions: a student-led team supporting other students' online learning & digital skills in the AHSS Faculty