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Finding Books and Articles on International and Foreign Law

Written by Silke Sahl Last Updated April 2019

The way to find books and articles continues to change as technology changes. Library catalogs evolve and use federated search engines which search across scholarship types, from books to journals, and across disciplines. The following guide is an introduction to catalogs, key journal indexes, and other finding aids relevant to international and foreign legal research and finding books and articles in general. Most of the databases described are fee-based and available only to members of the Columbia community. This list is not exhaustive. For additional assistance, please visit the Reference Office. See Law Library Services.


Arthur W. Diamond Law Library

The Arthur W. Diamond Law Library houses an impressive collection of domestic, foreign, comparative, and international law materials on four floors throughout the library. Most of the materials are located in open stacks; which means that users can go to the shelf and retrieve items without assistance. Many items in our collection do circulate and may be checked out by patrons who have borrowing privileges. However, some of the collections do not circulate and must be used within the law library. The library does have scanners that are available for use free of charge to scan items, which may then be emailed or downloaded to a USB device. Some of our collections are located in closed stack areas which require assistance for retrieval. The law library also houses part of its collection in a retrievable off-site storage facility in Princeton, New Jersey. Any items requested from offsite are generally available the next business day if requested before 2:30 PM or within 2 business days if requested after 2:30 PM. See the law library website for a description of the library collections and for maps to each floor.

Please note that the library is currently in the process of moving pre-1990 books to offsite storage. Please see the circulation desk if you have difficulties locating these titles.

International Law Books
International law covers the relationships between countries and includes international relations and international organizations. International law books in the law library are classified according to the Library of Congress Classification System. For more information on this system, see the Library of Congress Classification System page on the library website.
Foreign Law Books
Most of the library's foreign law collections are arranged in the Schiller Classification System. In the Schiller System, call numbers begin with the country code, for example Af Tun for Tunisian law and Ger for German law. More details are available at the Schiller Classification System page on the library website. The collection of materials from the United Kingdom and some other commonwealth countries such as Australia and Canada, are generally classified according to the Library of Congress Classification System. Just as with domestic law books, some early British law primary source materials are classified according to the Hicks Classification system.
Domestic Law Books
Most of the law library’s domestic law collection is arranged according to the Library of Congress Classification System. Call numbers beginning with the letter K are most common since Class K covers the majority of law. A small amount of the collection, early primary source original materials, is classified according to the Hicks Classification system.
Pegasus is the catalog of the Arthur W. Diamond Law Library. The catalog provides a register of all of the materials, books, journals, microform, videos, and databases) that the law library owns or licenses. You may search the library catalog in a variety of ways.
Figure 1
If you know the specific item that you are looking for, the best way to search is by title or author. Choose the method by clicking on the search options box and then choosing either title or author from the dropdown menu. You may then enter the title of the book (excluding articles such as the, an, a, etc.) or the name of the author (last name, first name) in the search box to the right.
Figure 2
When you are not sure what you are looking for, it is often helpful to start with a keyword search. You can choose to search by keyword by choosing that from the search options menu or if you are looking for multiple terms together, you may want to click on the advanced keyword searching option circled in yellow in Figure 1. When you are performing a keyword search in the catalog, the search is not looking through the contents of the actual item. The search looks through titles, subjects, and if it is included as part of the catalog record, the table of contents of a book. Since it is casting a wide net, you may get some results that are not quite what you are looking for. Once you do find an item that looks like it may be of interest to you, make sure that you click on that record. Figure 2 depicts a typical item record. For purposes of finding other books that may be of interest to you, you should look at the subject headings used to describe the book (in the red box in Figure 2). Subject Headings are assigned based on the Library of Congress Subject Heading (LCSH) system. A book receives subject headings based on its content. So the book in Figure 2 discusses criminal evidence in England, admissible evidence in England, and Reputation (Law) in England. Many subject headings contain not only the subject but also the geographical area in which the subject is discussed. You can click on any of the subject headings that you are interested in to find other items in the collection on the same subject. If you are interested in getting the book in figure two, you can use the information in the record to find it. In all records, the most important information for locating the item is located in the heading at the top (in the blue box in Figure 2) or in the line of information below the heading (the green box in Figure 2). The green box notes the floor location (in this case the 4th Floor), the call number (in this case KD8371.S68 2016), the bar code, and the status (in this case nothing is listed). If you do not see anything in the status field the book should be on the shelf. Sometimes you will see a date in that field. If this is the case, the book is checked out to another patron and the date the book is due is provided.
You can start off with a subject search if you feel comfortable that you know what subjects might be used in the catalog. When you perform a subject search, your result list will show you the subject you entered as the first result and then the subject headings that follow it in alphabetical order. If you click on the subject heading that you want you will see a list of results for items we have in the collection with the same subject heading included. At this point, you may want to rearrange your search results if there is a lengthy list that would require scrolling through several pages. To do this, you can click on the Limit Display button toward the top of the screen (circled in purple in Figure 3). You can click on the option of sorting the results by year at the bottom of the screen (to see the most recent items first) you can choose the type of material, perform a search within your current results, etc.
Figure 3
Call Number searches are useful to find an exact item you are looking for or in foreign legal research (particularly in Pegasus since we use Schiller Classification). If you want all books on law in Norway, you could run a Hicks/Schiller search for NOR. Just remember that this will not provide you with the items that may be more comparative in nature, since these items are cataloged under the prefix of COMP.

Columbia University Libraries

Figure 4

To find books in the rest of the Columbia University Libraries you can use CLIO. Clio includes the CUL catalog. To search it for books, the best choice is to click on catalog to only run a search of the catalog (circled in orange in Figure 4). Once in the catalog, you can run many of the same searches that were discussed above. The records do display a little bit differently, but the same type of information as discussed above is available. You will particularly want to focus on which library the item is located in, the call number, and whether it is available (see green highlighted area in Figure 5). The subject headings are located on the left hand side of the record (highlighted in red in Figure 5). It is important to note that CUL has a large collection of electronic books available through many different services that you can have access to. However, there may be restrictions on downloading and printing.

Figure 5

CLIO includes the holdings of most of the Columbia University Libraries. Law Library materials are also cataloged in CLIO. However, it is better to use Pegasus to ensure that you see both the most up-to-date information on Law Library holdings, as well as the most complete information since some items may not always appear in CLIO. CLIO does not contain materials held by the Teachers College Library. For items held by Teachers College you will have to consult Educat.

Beyond Columbia

To look for materials beyond Columbia , search for books at other libraries using WorldCat. WorldCat allows you to search the collections of libraries in your area and around the world. There are over 10,000 libraries that have listings in WorldCat. There are over 402 million bibliographic records in WorldCat. The Diamond Law Library is a member of OCLC and WorldCat and can borrow materials from other University libraries throughout the country through Interlibrary Loan. For more information, see the Reference Librarians.

Books Online

Some texts and treatises are available in full-text online. Sometimes the books are exact PDF facsimiles of the printed work, and other times, there is only html text available. Westlaw, Lexis, and Bloomberg Law all have many secondary sources available in html format. These items are not cataloged in Pegasus so you would need to go to the individual database to see what is included. HeinOnline and Making of Modern Law Legal Treatises 1800-1926 also have access to many PDF copies of books. These items are cataloged in Pegasus and note that they are electronic resources, but you can also go into the databases to search through what is available.


There are many ways to find law review and journal articles using the resources available to you at the Law Library and the University Libraries. There are differences between Pegasus and CLIO that must be addressed when it comes to searching for articles.

Figure 6
As mentioned above, Pegasus does not search the actual text of items held by the Law Library. Pegasus will only search the title, author, or subject of the journal. This means that you cannot look for the title or author of an individual article in Pegasus. When using Pegasus, you should be searching for the title of the journal itself. Some journals will only be available in print. Recent unbound issues of journals are kept in the 3rd Floor Reserve area, while bound volumes will be located elsewhere. There are separate item records for the print copies of journals and the electronic journals (see Figure 6 in red and green respectively). When you click on the electronic resource listing for the journal, you will see all of the databases that the Law Library subscribes to that provide access to the journal. Please use the dates provided only as a guideline since there may be more recent issues available than indicated. When you click on the link to the database, you should be taken directly to the journal.
Figure 7
Unlike Pegasus, CLIO searches not only local information in the catalog, but uses the Blacklight search and discovery engine that allows users to find the over 1.6 billion items in the Summon article database. This means that users can search for article titles and authors in CLIO in addition to searching for the actual journals. In CLIO, you can just search without choosing a particular option. If you do this, you will get the search results divided by catalog, GeoData (spatial data collections), Articles, Academic Commons (CU digital repository), and Libraries Website (see Figure 7). You can also choose where you would like to search to begin with. For instance, with searching for books, you clicked on catalog first so that you were searching the University catalog. If you want to search for articles, you can click on Articles. The advantage of this is that you will then be able to search by title, author, keyword, and publication title, thus allowing for more targeted searching for a specific item. If you click on a result in Articles, you will be taken to the E-link page to show which database you can find the article in. Some journals that we have in Pegasus may also be available electronically through the University so it can be helpful to look for journals in both catalogs.

Finding Articles on your Topic

Pegasus and CLIO are great to use once you know what articles you are looking for. If you are just starting your project you will need to do research to find articles that will be useful to you. Once you do find an article, you can always use the footnotes in the article to find other articles that may be of interest to you. There are generally two ways that you can search for articles. The first is to use a full text database that has articles within it and search among all the articles by keyword or phrase. The second method is to use a periodical index to find articles based on subject. Whichever method you use, there is no single database that indexes or includes every journal that exists so you may need to search in more than one place in order to conduct a thorough search.

Full Text Searching Databases --Westlaw, Lexis Advance, and Bloomberg Law

These three databases are available to current Columbia Law School students, faculty, and staff. Each database is accessed using an individual username and password. In each database, it is always a good idea to check out the scope notes or information to see what journals are included. Additionally, only a portion of the journal may be included in the database, not the entire run.
In these databases, you can search through particular journals or through all of the journals that are available. Journals are generally listed under secondary sources in all of these databases. You can also search through certain portions of the articles, known as fields or segments, by using the advanced search option once you have narrowed down the type of resource to journals. When you are searching, remember that since it is a full text database, you will receive a result on your search every time your search word or phrase appears in a document. This is true even if a search term or phrase only appears once. The downside of this is that you will get back search results that are not really about what you are looking for, but do use the search term or phrase you entered. To ensure that you only get results that are actually about a topic, you can use term frequency or the “at least” command. Term frequency and the “at least” operator allow you to ensure that the search term or phrase appears in the results a minimum of x times. By using this, you can ensure that your results are actually about what you are searching for rather than just using the search term or phrase only once or twice. If you ever have questions about which Boolean operator or terms and connectors to use in a database, you can generally find the answer by clicking on the help icon or of course always come to the reference desk.

Legal Periodical Indexes

Index to Legal Periodicals and Books (ILP)
There are two versions of this particular index, Index to Legal Periodicals and Books and Index to Legal Periodicals and Books Retrospective 1918-1981. As its name implies, the Retrospective version indexes periodicals from 1918-1981, so for anything after 1981 you would use Index to Legal Periodicals and Books. This index includes over 500 legal periodicals that are published in the U.S. Canada, Great Britain, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand. This index is hosted by EBSCO, which provides it with an additional useful feature. If you are searching for articles on a topic that is interdisciplinary and is not just law, you can search through multiple indexes to look for articles. This means that in one search, you could be searching economics journals, business journals, academic journals, etc. In order to do this, you click on the link where it says “Choose Databases” (see Figure 8 circled in red). When you do this, you will then be able to choose which databases you would like to search and then click OK once you have made your selections.
Figure 8
Once you have entered in search terms you can look through the search results. You can filter through the search results on the left-hand side of the screen or read through the results. Each result will show the title of the article, author, journal, citation, subjects, and either a link to the PDF of the article or the e-link option. The e-link will show you where within any of the databases that Columbia University subscribes to you can find the article. Sometimes, there will be no results; which means that the article is not available electronically through Columbia. When this happens, make sure to see if the journal is available in print here at Columbia. If the journal is not available in print here at Columbia, you can always try to get a copy through interlibrary loan (ILL); law students must make all ILL requests in person at the Reference Desk. When you click on a particular result, you should consult the subjects that are provided. These subjects are how the database indexes these topics and provides the most accurate way to find information on a topic. You can click on any of these subjects and you will then run a search based on that subject.
LegalTrac is an expanded online version of the print resource, Current Law Index. More than 1200 major law reviews, legal newspapers, Bar Association journals, specialty publications, and international legal journals are indexed in LegalTrac. Of these, more than 200 titles are available in full text. The database covers federal and state cases, laws and regulations, legal practice and taxation, British Commonwealth, EU, and international law. The indexed content is also available below as the Legal Resource Index although this version does have better subject searching capabilities since the database will provide suggested subjects for the terms you enter.
Current Index to Legal Periodicals (CILP)
This is a current awareness service for legal research rather than an easily searchable database for articles. Current Index to Legal Periodicals provides subject indexing of over 500 journals. Article citations are organized by subject area in each weekly listing. Each edition is available in HTML, Word, and PDF format. There is no full text linking, but you can identify the articles that you will want to retrieve separately.
Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals (IFLP)
A multilingual index to legal articles and book reviews published worldwide. Over 500 legal journals are included in this index. The Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals covers international (public and private), comparative, and foreign law of jurisdictions other than the U.S., U.K., Canada, and Australia. A list of journals covered can be found at Berkeley's IFLP website. Periodicals are continually being added. Coverage in IFLP includes records from 1984 to date. For records from 1960-1983, you need to click on the print edition tab once you are in the resource on HeinOnline. In addition to the journals that are indexed, IFLP also analyzes the contents of some individually published collections of legal essays, Festschriften, Mélanges, and congress reports every year..
Legal Resource Index (LRI)
Accessible via Westlaw.
This index has coverage of over 700 journals from common law countries going back to 1980. You can search based on terms and phrases, title, author, subject, and citation. This is the electronic companion to the print publication known as Current Law Index, which was published on a monthly basis.
Legal Journals Index (LJI)
This index, available in Westlaw, indexes and provides abstracts for articles published about UK and relevant EU law since 1986.
Articles Index via Lawtel
Lawtel’s Articles Index contains abstracts from approximately 73 legal publications in the UK and EU. The abstracts include the key issues contained in the article as well as direct links to all cited cases and all cited Legislation.

Indexes to Non-Law Journals, Relevant to Legal Research

Often, articles on legal subjects are published in Non-Law Journals. Additionally, many legal topics also include interdisciplinary topics. The following is a selective list of indexes that will help you find these articles. Other indexes may exist for other subjects. The following databases are available through the Columbia University Libraries. You can search through databases in CLIO to find additional subject indexes.
Provides indexing of local and regional business news coverage of large corporations, privately held companies, local start-ups, executive profiles, marketing, finance, and industry news. Coverage is from 1985 to present.
Academic Search Complete
This is a multidisciplinary full-text database with more than 6100 full text periodicals, including more than 5100 that are peer-reviewed. More than 10,000 journals are indexed as well. PDF content goes back as far as 1887.
Africa-Wide Information
Over 3.5 million citations and abstracts dating back to the 16th century, this database combines bibliographic databases from around the world to cover Africa and African studies.
Business Source Complete
Full text for scholarly business journals and other sources. Coverage goes back to 1922.
Contains citations, abstracts, and full text to economic materials dating back to 1969.
Environment Complete
Coverage of sources in the area of agriculture, ecosystem ecology, energy, natural resources, marine & freshwater science, geography, pollution & waste management, environmental technology, environmental law, public policy, and urban planning among others.
Indexes journals, reports, conference papers, and other materials on education back to 1966.
Provides indexing and full text of journals, magazines, newspapers, newsletters, books, conference proceedings, and reports on women’s studies and LBGT research.
Humanities full text
Has full text back to 1995 and indexes back to 1984 of scholarly sources in the humanities.
Index Islamicus
Indexes material on Islam, the Middle East, and the Muslim world from periodicals, Festschriften, conference proceedings, books, book reviews, and other materials in European languages, Turkish, Malay and Bahasa Indonesia. More than 2000 journals are included.
Provides abstracts to over 4800 current biomedical journals.
Omnifile full text mega
Provides indexing in all core undergraduate subjects and cross-disciplinary work with full text articles from over 2500 publications dating back to 1994, indexing and abstracts from approximately 3600 publications, and retrospective coverage back to 1982.
PAIS International
Indexes journal articles, books, government documents, statistical compilations, reports, directories, and other items from all over the world. Subjects included are public policy, social policy, social sciences, public affairs, business, government, international relations, banking, environment, health, law and legislation, political science, finance, education, and statistics. Coverage is from 1972 to the present.
Includes citations and full text articles in academic and professional disciplines like business, economics, gender studies, literature, and political science.
Social Sciences full text
Covers more than 350 international English language periodicals in the area of the social sciences. Indexing back to 1983 and full text back to 1995.

Full-Text Journals Online

Some journals can be found online in full-text. Many of the indexes listed above provide full-text access. To see if a journal is available in full-text online, search the library catalogs, Pegasus or CLIO for the title of the journal.

The Columbia Law Library and the Columbia University Libraries subscribe to several good journal collections online. Note that the individual journal titles covered in the following databases are cataloged in Pegasus or CLIO, and most of the articles in these journals are indexed in the indexes listed above. Just because some issues of the journal are available in full text, does not mean that all issues will be available; quite often, some journals will have a temporary embargo on allowing these databases to provide electronic full text access for a period of time following the initial publication of the issue. Following is a list of a few of the journal collection databases, most useful for legal research.

Cambridge Journals Online
China Academic Journals
Oxford Journals
Sage Full-Text Collections

Journals Available in Print

While many journals are available electronically, it is important to note that some are only available in print; this is particularly true for many of the Law Library’s foreign periodicals. Search Pegasus or the other catalogs described in the ‘Books' section for the title of the journal. Make sure that you look to see what the Library’s current holdings are since we do not always have a complete run of journals.


The following dictionaries and encyclopedias provide definitions of legal terms and can include citations to books and articles about the terms.

Dictionary of international and comparative law. James R. Fox. 3rd ed. Dobbs Ferry, N.Y. : Oceana Publications, 2003.
3rd Floor Reference and Core Collection Dictionaries, JX1226 F832 2003
Encyclopedia of public international law. Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law, under the direction of Rudolf Bernhardt. Amsterdam: New York, North-Holland, 1992-2003.
2nd Floor, JX1226 En19a 1992 and online
Modern dictionary of international legal terms: English, French, German. E. Lindbergh. Boston : Little Brown, 1993.
3rd Floor Reserve Dictionaries , JX1226 L64 1993
Parry & Grant encyclopaedic dictionary of international law. Parry, Clive. 3rd ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.
3rd Floor Reference, KZ1161 .P37 2009


There are many excellent research guides on foreign and international law that can lead researchers to relevant books and articles. Some are general guides to foreign and international legal research, and others are on specific subjects, such as international environmental law or international criminal law.

Foreign Legal Research Guides

For foreign legal research guides, both online and in print, see the Arthur W. Diamond Law Library guide, A Selective List of Guides to Foreign Legal Research.

International Legal Research Guides

For international legal research guides, see Arthur W. Diamond Law Library Research Guides Page
Beyond Columbia , the following resources are mega sources and provide access to the many international guides available.
ASIL Electronic Resource Guide (e-RG)
Published by the American Society of International Law (ASIL) since 1997. This excellent resource provides links to electronic resources around the world.
Electronic Information System for International Law (EISIL)
Also provided by ASIL, EISIL is an open database of authenticated primary and other materials in international law.
Published by the Hauser Global Law School Program at NYU School of Law, GlobaLex is an electronic legal publication dedicated to international and foreign law research. The guides and articles are written by scholars who are well known in their fields.
LLRX-Comparative/Foreign Law Guides
A free web journal with excellent guides to international legal research.