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Legal Research Process

What are the Index to Legal Periodicals (ILP) & LegalTrac?

ILP (along with ILP Retrospective) and LegalTrac provide a searchable index of approximately 1,000 legal periodicals and other legal works. Each service provides abstracts and citations; full text of select works may be available. Although both ILP and LegalTrac have extensive coverage, their coverage does not fully overlap. Therefore, search both indexes to be as thorough as possible.

When to Use ILP & LegalTrac

These indexes are useful to:

  • Double check and expand upon what you have found in Google Scholar, Lexis Advance, and Westlaw. The indexes' subject searching feature provides an additional tool for searching law reviews that is absent from the other databases. The coverage is also more extensive, particularly when using the ILP Retrospective component.
  • Do preemption checks: Academics also tend to use these indexes when considering a new project to ensure that the topic has not already been studied and discussed.
  • Find a specific article: Given how comprehensive these indexes are, they sometimes carry law reviews that are unavailable elsewhere.

How to Find ILP & LegalTrac

Both ILP and LegalTrac are subscription databases that can be accessed via Tarlton's website, either through TALLONS, the online catalog, or on the Databases page. (Tarlton no longer receives these in print; Current Law Index is the print equivalent of LegalTrac.).

Lexis Advance and Westlaw also provide access to LegalTrac (known instead as the "Legal Resource Index"), but not the ILP. However, the indexes are most user friendly when accessed via their customized subscription databases. 

Both ILP and LegalTrac cover periodicals back through at least 1980. (Lexis's version of LegalTrac coverage extends to 1977.) Additionally, ILP Retrospective, a separate database, provides coverage from 1908 through 1981.

How to Use ILP and LegalTrac

There are a variety of search options for each index. Not only can you tailor your search terms to a variety of fields, such as keyword, author, or title, but you can also limit your searches by date or by document type. Once you run the search, you can also organize your search results in a variety of manners, such as by relevance, date of publication, journal, subject, or the frequency with which the publication is cited.

When you do not have a specific citation in mind and want to find whatever relevant articles are available on a given topic, doing a general keyword search is best. Then, once you find an article that is on point, look for a hyperlinked "subject" to find similar, related articles.

You can often access the full text of the document online through either index. If the full text is unavailable, you must try other databases, such as HeinOnline, Lexis, Westlaw, or the journal's website to see if it has an online archives. Failing that, check the library's online catalog, TALLONS, to check availability in print.

Strengths & Weaknesses of ILP & LegalTrac

Strengths:

  • Alternative to full-text searching
  • Can create alerts via email and RSS to notify you when newly posted articles match your search criteria
  • Can create a personal account that allows you to save searches and articles and to view longer periods of your search history
  • Can export citations to third-party software (e.g. EndNote, RefWorks)
  • Can browse a specific journal for the entire coverage period

Weaknesses:

  • Neither service is as current as the weekly Current Index to Legal Periodicals (CILP), which is available on Westlaw
  • Full text is not always available
  • Licensed databases; not free
  • Neither service provides citations in Bluebook format (CILP does)

Relative advantages/disadvantages of ILP & LegalTrac:

  • LegalTrac provides a search filter to return only those results with full text available online, while ILP does not
  • Coverage differs slightly between the two indexes:
    • In addition to its basic coverage, LegalTrac indexes law-related articles from more than 1,000 business and general-interest periodicals, as well as newspapers, bar association journals, and international legal publications from English-speaking countries
    • In addition to its basic coverage, ILP indexes over 1,400 books and treatises a year, as well as yearbooks and symposia
  • ILP allows you to search both the ILP and the Legal Periodicals Retrospective databases with coverage back to 1908, which is useful for any kind of legal history research