Back to Basics: Legal Research 101

Exploring HeinOnline, Law Journal Library, U.S. Code
Shannon Furtak

You've been accepted to law school, and that's no small feat. Congratulations—your hard work has paid off, rewarding you with three years that will probably prove to be more intense than anything you've endured.

Wait. That doesn't sound like a reward. It sounds difficult, and it will be—but this short post can make it a little easier. Jump ahead of your classmates this summer by learning the basics of legal research in HeinOnline. Visit the law library early and access the world's largest image-based legal research database, which is guaranteed to be a favorite tool among 2L and 3L students, faculty, and library staff. HeinOnline documents are exact replicas of original print publications, and all documents are fully searchable. It's like having an entire library at your fingertips!


The HeinOnline Welcome Page displays an impressive list of content, including more than 2,200 law and law-related journals, full coverage of the U.S. Statutes at Large, U.S. Code, Federal Register, Code of Federal Regulations, Congressional Record, and United States Reports, and thousands of compiled federal legislative histories. HeinOnline also has a partnership with Fastcase, bringing the full text of thousands of federal and state-level cases to HeinOnline users.

Content is organized by category or by collection name. Click the more information link next to any collection to view a description of its contents or to download a list of titles contained within the library:

Located directly above the content is the main search bar with four distinct tabs, which will help you perform a variety of functions inside the database.

Using the Database

1. Find an Article

Finding an article is simple. Use the Full Text search tab, and click the Advanced Search link directly beneath the search bar. In the Title field, enter your article title and click search:

You'll receive one search result. Click the title of the article to access the full text of the document:

After clicking the title, you'll be looking at the article exactly as it appeared in the print publication.

NOTE: Finding related documents is easy. Simply look for the ScholarCheck icon, which is a red checkmark inside a blue circle. This will show you what articles cite the article you're viewing, as well as how many HeinOnline users have accessed the article within a rolling 12-month period. You'll also notice blue highlighted citations and websites, and these are all inline hyperlinks. These make it easy to locate and jump between related documents in HeinOnline, Fastcase, and on the web.

2. Print a Document

When viewing either search results or the image of a document, look for the red PDF icon. This will enable you to quickly download a PDF of an article or section: