​Cite-Checking Steps

Preliminary Steps for Unclear, Incomplete or Incorrect Citations

  • Bieber Dictionary of Legal Abbreviations, 6th ed.
    LRC Reference Desk & Reference KF 246 P74 2009
  • Web search – Try searching variations on the information you have (author's last name and keywords from the title; try alternate spellings of author's last name).
    • Look for author's CV listing published works or someone else's citation to the source you need.
    • Record as much information as you can, even if Bluebook citation does not call for it, because it may be helpful in locating the item, e.g., publisher, ISBN (books), and ISSN (journals).
    • Look for a PDF copy of the original source document online. Institutional authors (government and non-profit organizations) often post their publications online. Some professors link to PDFs of their articles on their faculty web page.
  • Westlaw and Lexis – Useful if you do not have an exact citation for an article and were unable to find it using Google.
    • Search using field restrictors with whatever reliable information you have.
    • Documents are not PDF and, generally, are not acceptable for cite-checking. If you are on a tight deadline, you may choose to cite-check content to the Westlaw or Lexis version while you wait for the print or PDF version to arrive to verify pin cites.

Finding Sources


  • USD library catalog – You can search for books several ways: by title, author or keyword (if you are not sure of the exact title). If Copley or the LRC owns the book, the catalog will tell you its location, call number and availability.
  • Circuit and other local libraries –Check library catalogs to determine if a particular library owns the item, where it is located, and whether it is available:

You can request Circuit books to be delivered to the LRC by logging in with your MySanDiego credentials or library barcode. ***Before submitting a Circuit request, check the TWEN page to see if another cite-checker has already requested the book. After submitting a Circuit request, post a notice to TWEN. You can visit academic libraries within the Circuit – UCSD, SDSU, and Cal State University at San Marcos – and check out materials on-site with a current USD ID card.

  • Google Books – Scanned PDF pages of many books are searchable. If no longer protected by copyright, you can see all pages. If under copyright, you can search and see portions of the text.
  • WorldCat – Mega-catalog where you should be able to find a record for almost any book or periodical. If you cannot find it here, there may be an error in the information your author gave you. When you find a book here, write down the ISBN number. Different editions by different publishers will have different pagination. You must find the edition your author used to verify pin cites.
  • ILL request – Follow procedures for requesting Interlibrary Loans.

News Articles

  • USD library catalog – Search for newspaper or magazine title. Copley has many newspapers and magazines in microform.
  • Circuit and other local libraries – Search for newspaper or magazine title. You cannot request delivery of news articles via the Circuit, but you can visit those libraries.
  • Website of specific newspaper or magazine – Some newspapers and magazines maintain online archives, which may or may not be PDF images of the original print source.
  • Lexis – Search content of specific newspapers, magazines, or combined news sources. Typically, coverage is post-1994 (varies by title), but Lexis does not provide PDF images of news articles.
  • ILL request – If the article is not available locally in print, microform, or electronically, you may submit an ILL request after following the ILL procedures below. The LRC will not request newspaper or magazine articles that are available electronically. Most libraries do not retain print copies and will not lend microform.

Journal Articles

  • USD library catalog – Search for journal title. The catalog will indicate if we have access to the journal in print or on microform or through HeinOnline, Westlaw, Lexis, or another database.
  • Print Journals – On the 1st Mezzanine & 2nd Floor of the LRC, organized by call number. Non-law and multidisciplinary journals may be available at Copley.
  • HeinOnlineand JStor – Articles are PDF copies of original source. No login required to use on campus. Off campus, sign in with your MySanDiego credentials or library barcode (located on the back of your USD ID card).
  • Academic Search Premier – Some titles are PDF images of the original source. Useful for non-law and multidisciplinary journals.
  • Circuit and other local libraries – Search for the journal title, not the article title. You cannot request delivery of journal articles via the Circuit, but you can visit those libraries.
  • Web search – See "Preliminary Steps" above.
  • ILL request – If the article is not available locally in print, microform, or a PDF image of the original source, you may submit an ILL request following the ILL procedures below.
    • PDF copies of source documents are acceptable for cite-checking purposes. If a PDF is available, the LRC will not request a hard copy, front matter (table of contents, title and copyright page), or photocopies of the spine.

Federal Materials

  • Federal Digital System – Provides PDF copies of original sources, including CFR, Federal Register, Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents, and many other government publications.

Foreign & International Materials

LRC Interlibrary Loan Procedures for Cite-Checkers

  • Be sure you have exhausted all avenues outlined above. Consult a reference librarian if you have any questions.
  • Check TWENto see if anyone has already requested the item.
  • Contact your managing editor for permission to submit an ILL request.
  • Collect the following information:
Entire Book Copies of Chapter of Book Copies of Pages of Book Journal/News Article
Author/Editor Author/Editor Author/Editor  
Title Title Title Title of publication
Publisher Publisher Publisher Volume and Issue
Year Year Year Year
  Chapter author and title   Article author and title
  Beginning and ending page #s Page #s needed Beginning and ending page #s
  Any additional pages: (title & copyright pages, table of contents)
The name of the author of the article & footnote # you are cite-checking
  • Log in to ILL. If you are off campus, you will need to enter your MySanDiego credentials. The first time you submit a request through ILL, you will be required to create a profile.
  • Under "New Request" click on "Book" or "Article, Case, Statute, etc." to request copies.
  • Fill out the form as completely as possible. Be sure to include information about which article and footnote # you are cite-checking.
  • Post a notice to TWEN that you have submitted an ILL request.
  • You should receive a confirmation that your request has been sent within a day or two. If you do not receive a confirmation, contact a reference librarian.
  • When the item arrives, you will be notified by email. Post a notice to TWEN that it has arrived.
  • Books will be on the shelf behind the reference desk. Copies will be posted to TWEN.
  • Use ILL books and return them to the shelf behind the reference desk for other cite-checkers to use.
  • LRC will return books by the due date, so use them early. Renewals are at the discretion of the lending library.

Important notes about ILL

  • ILL process is not immediate – it can take up to 2 weeks or longer. Request items well before your deadline.
  • Copies often arrive more quickly than books. If you do not need an entire book, consider requesting copies of pages instead.
  • You must use TWEN regularly to look for and post notices about sources that have been requested through ILL. Duplicate requests are costly for the LRC and lending libraries.
  • Items that the LRC will not request through ILL:
    • Materials from libraries located outside of North America
    • Most newspaper and magazine articles
    • Materials that are available in PDF copy of original source
    • Front matter (table of contents, title, and copyright page) for journal articles available in PDF
    • Photocopies of book or journal spines
    • State statutes if either the official or unofficial code is available locally. Bluebook rules permit citation to both official and unofficial codes.

Need help?

Contact the Reference Desk via email, by phone at (619) 260–4612, or chat with us online.