Reproductive Control Seminar

 ***THIS is an ARCHIVED guide. It may contain BROKEN links. Its value is HISTORICAL only.***

Current Research Guides 

Dorie Bertram, Director of Public Services and Lecturer in Law, Washington University School of  Law Library

Table of Contents

I. Introduction 

II. Primary Sources
A. Federal Statutes
B. Federal Bills and Legislative History
C. State Statutes
D. State Bills and Legislative History
E. Federal and State Cases 

III. Secondary Sources
A. Using the Online Catalogs (Books, Looseleafs, Etc.)
B. Periodical Research
C. Government Documents
D. Looseleaf Services
E. Selected Reference Resources
F. Searching the Web 

IV. Finding Items in the Law Library
A. Collection Locations 

V. Requesting Items That are Not Available at the Law Library
A. Washington University Hill Top Campus Libraries
B. MOBIUS Requests
C. Interlibrary Loan 

VI. Additional Assistance 

I. Introduction

In writing a law school seminar research paper, you will find that your research methods will differ from those that you used in your first year Legal Research and Writing class.

While you may still need to use those methods to identify relevant cases and statutes, you are likely to need to go into more in-depth research in secondary sources.  This research guide will help you chose catalogs and indexes to identify these secondary sources as well has providing tips on how to acquire these sources once you find them.

Technical Note: Some of the links in this research guide will only be active when launched from a computer within the Washington University School of Law. Links to the Lexis-Nexis and Westlaw databases require your passwords. If you have forgotten your password contact Aris Woodham or Dorie Bertram

II. Primary Sources

A. Federal Statutes

The official source for federal codified law is the United States Code (U.S.C.), but the commercially published United States Code Annotated (U.S.C.S.) and United States Code Service (U.S.C.) are often more useful for research because they are often more timely, and are enhanced with value added annotations (historical notes, notes of decisions, etc.). There are copies of all three of these titles in the Reading Room, and on the Fifth Floor in the Federal Materials section. They are both also available full text online: the U.S.C.S. is on Lexis (Lexis-Nexis Source: USCS - United States Code Service; Code, Const, Rules, Conventions & PLs), and the U.S.C.A. is on Westlaw (Westlaw Database: USCA).

B. Federal Bills and Legislative History

There are several online sources for full texts of bills (and uncodified Public Laws) and legislative history resources. These include:

  • Congressional Universe is a major commercial index of congressional documents. Congressional publications from 1789 to the present are indexed and selected full text documents are included in Congressional Universe. See the Coverage and Update Schedule for detailed content information.
  • Research Tip: Most of the congressional publications indexed by Congressional Universe are held by the Law Library in microfiche and/or paper in the Government Documents and Microfiche Collections on the Second Floor of the Library.  Please consult a Reference Librarian if you need assistance locating a congressional publication.

A Few Words on Legislative History: If you are researching a bill or a law, it is often quite useful to read some legislative history materials. In brief, legislative history is the paperwork that Congress generates in the process of considering a bill and passing it into law. While legislative history is most frequently used to determine legislative intent, you may also find it useful for the discussions and pro-con arguments that it contains. Sometimes there are materials available for bills that did not become law; it depends on how much consideration Congress gave them.

The four components of legislative history are:


Debates are published in the Congressional Record. They are transcripts of what transpired in the full House and Senate (as opposed to in committees).


Frequently there are multiple versions of a bill before it is passed into law. Viewing the multiple versions is useful to see what language was added or omitted in the final version.


Hearings are held at the committee level (not before the full House or Senate). They are transcripts, in a question and answer format, of sessions with experts and concerned parties. They often contain full text reprints of articles and other documents submitted for the record.


Reports are submitted to the full House and/or Senateby the committees. They are the committee's recommendation that the bill under consideration should pass, and why. They often contain opposing viewpoints and a section-by-section analysis of the bill.

Usually only the most hearty of researcher will compare the text of bills. Most find the reports most helpful, with the hearings and debates coming in next. For a detailed guide to compiling legislative history materials, see my Legislative History Research Guide. For a brief guide, see Katrina Stierholz' A Brief Guide to Legislative History Research. 

C. State Statutes

Current state statutes are available on Lexis and Westlaw. Hardcopy is also available on the first floor, arranged alphabetically by state.

If you want to do a state-by-state comparison of a statutory issue, you usually must do a laborious search of each state (try state statutes on Lexis or Westlaw if you want to take this approach). Sometimes however, someone else has already made the effort and published the results. A bibliography of such works is produced by Cheryl Rae Nyberg. See Subject Compilations of State Laws [KF 1 .F672]. The current edition is kept as part of the Reference Collection (ask for it at the Circulation Desk). Previous editions are in the stacks.

D. State Bills and Legislative History

Full text of state bills, summaries and status information is available on Lexis and Westlaw. Use the following table to find the right database


Type of Information 


Lexis-Nexis Source
(XX insert State postal abbreviation)

Westlaw Database
(XX insert State postal abbreviation)
(ST indicates combined all states)

Full text bills, current session

XX Full-Text Bills

State Full Text of Bills - Current Congress 



Summaries & status info, current session

XX Bill Tracking Reports

State Bill Tracking - Current Congress 



Combined summaries and status info
plus full text, current session

XX Bill Tracking and Full-Text Bills



Historical full text bills -- BILLTXT-OLD
Historical summaries and status info -- BILLTRK-OLD
Historical combined summaries and status info
and full text bills.

E. Federal and State Cases

Look in the appropriate database on Lexis or Westlaw. When using Westlaw, don't forget about those West key numbers that you learned about in your 1L Legal Research and Writing course. If you are a little rusty on your case finding skills, ask a reference librarian for assistance. You may also research the following legal research texts provide a good refresher

  • Fundamentals of Legal Research [Reserve KF240 .J3 1998]
  • How to Find the Law [Reserve KF240 .H6 1989]
  • Legal Research and Citation [Reserve KF240 .T4 1999]
  • The Legal Research Manual [Reserve KF 240 .W7 1986]

III. Secondary Sources

A. Using the Online Catalogs (Books, Looseleafs, Etc.)

When you use the Online Catalog, keep in mind that it does not provide you with full text information (although sometimes it provides a hypertext link to a full text source) and that it does not index journal articles (but it will tell you if we own a particular journal, or if we have received a particular issue of a journal that we own).

The Online Catalog is an inventory of the materials that the Library owns, regardless of the format. One of the great powers of the Online Catalog is the standardized subject headings. Standardized subject headings allow like items to be retrieved, regardless of the use of synonyms in the title.

Research Tip: Use a keyword search to find a few good titles, then use their subject headings to find more like items. You may also seach by author, title, or a variety of numerical searches (e.g., call number, ISBN number, Public Law number for legislative histories).

Our catalog tells you not only that we own a title, but which updates or issues we have received, and whether or not an item has been checked out.

Three Tiered Search Capabilities 

The Law Library participates in a consortium of Missouri libraries that share their resources through a common online catalog. As a result of this program, you have three options when searching the catalogs (see below). You may request that circulating items from the other libraries be delivered to the Law Library Circulation Desk for pickup by simply clicking on the "Request" button (on Law Library and WU Hilltop Campus catalogs) or click on the "Request this Item" (in MOBIUS) and fill out the form. To request items that are not available from these catalogs, make an interlibrary loan request.

Research Tip: Whenever possible, you will want to request a title from the Hilltop Campus Libraries' Catalog rather than through the MOBIUS Catalog. All requests made in MOBIUS are sent first to Merlin, which is the catalog for the University of Missouri campuses and St. Louis University. If your reqeust goes to a Merlin library, you will not be able to keep the book as long as if your request goes through a Washington University Library; you will only be able to renew items once, and you will be limited to a maximum of 20 requests or checkouts at one time.

You now have three online catalog choices: 


  1. Law Library Catalog
    Use this catalog to search the holdings of just the Law Library. This is useful if you need something quickly and don't have time to wait for delivery from another library, or to help identify some relevant subject headings before searching one of the other, larger catalogs.

  2. The Washington University Library Catalog: All Hilltop Libraries
    Use this combined catalog to search all Washington University Libraries with the exception of the Medical School Library.
    It is useful when you are doing multidisciplinary work and you would like to broaden your search to include items that are not likely to be in a specialized law collection. If you need something quickly, you may want to run across campus to check it out; or you may request that it be delivered to the Law Library Circulation Desk by clicking on the "Request" button. Delivery takes approximately three business days.

  3. MOBIUS Union Catalog
    This catalog combines the resources of the Washington University Hilltop Campus Libraries, St. Louis University Libraries, and all University of Missouri Libraries (Columbia, Kansas City, Rolla and St. Louis). Additional Missouri academic libraries will be added in the future. Use this catalog when you want to broaden your search to include a larger collection of titles from a wide range of general as well as special subject libraries. Note also that this catalog includes the collections of all four Missouri law school libraries. You may request that circulating items be delivered to the Law Library Circulation Desk for pickup by selecting the link that says "Request this Item." Delivery takes approximately five to seven business days.

    Research Tip: Begin your search in the WU Hilltop Campus Catalog. If you find what you need, request your items from that catalog (for longer loan periods and multiple renewals). If you don't find what you are looking for, click on the "MOBIUS Union Catalog" button and your search will automatically be run in the MOBIUS catalog.

Other Catalog Options 

  1. Becker Library at Washington University School of Medicine
    Note that the Medical School Library's holdings are not included in any of the catalogs listed above. If you find something that you want at the Medical School Library, you may request it via interlibrary loan (please note in your request that the book is at the Medical School Library). Submit your request to the Law Library's Interlibrary Loan Department via an e-mail request to or our online form. Interlibrary Loan may take a week or more, so if you need the book right away, you may take a trip over to the Medical School Library to check it out. Remember to bring your Washington University ID with you. See Becker Library Location and Hours.

  2. WorldCat (go to this link, and then select "WorldCat")
    WorldCat is a huge cataloging database used by more than 25,000 thousand libraries around the World. If you find something in WorldCat that is not held by a Washington University or MOBIUS library, please DO NOT use the interlibrary loan function on WorldCat to request the book. You must submit your request to the Law Library's Interlibrary Loan Department via an e-mail request to or our online form.

B. Periodical Research

There are three ways to find useful periodical articles: search a full-text periodical database; search one or more periodical indexes or search a citation index.

Full Text Databases

You may already have experience with searching full-text databases on Lexis and Westlaw.

The advantages to full-text databases are

  • you can search every word of the text (not being limited to titles and subject headings), and
  • once you identify articles, they are right there for printing (no extra step to find them and print or photocopy).

The disadvantages are

  • coverage is not always complete: sometimes a particular journal is included, but only selected articles are in the database
  • full-text online usually begins sometime in the early 1980's (the date varies by journal title); there may be significant literature on your topic before that date.
  • you lose the advantages of standardized subject headings 


Selected Full-Text Databases 
Lexis-Nexis Source 
Combined Law Reviews Law Reviews, Combined JLR
New York Times The New York Times NYT (limited to current day's issue)
Washington Post The Washington Post WP
St. Louis Post Dispatch St. Louis Post Dispatch SLPD

Periodical Indexes

Use periodical indexes to find specific journal articles on your topic. There are several reasons why you would choose to use a periodical index (as opposed to searching a full-text database):

  • Comprehensive Searching: All articles in each included journal are indexed
  • Date Coverage: Full text of journals online usually begins somewhere in the early 1980's. While online periodical indexes often start at this time, earlier paper indexes are available.
  • Interdisciplinary Work:Sometimes you don't have full-text available in the discipline that you need to research, but you have access to an index.

Every major academic discipline has one or more periodical indexes. The nature of the research required for this seminar makes it likely that you will find useful material in both the legal and non-legal indexes.

There are three major legal periodical indexes:

  • LegalTrac SearchBank provides access to American legal periodicals from 1981-present. The paper version is the Current Law Index [Reading Room K33 .C87]. There is no paper version prior to 1981.
  • Wilson Web Index to Legal Periodicals provides access to American legal periodicals from 1981-present. For indexing of articles published prior to 1981, see the Index to Legal Periodicals [Reading Room K9 .N32].
  • Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals provides access to legal literature worldwide, covering all forms of foreign (non-Anglo-American) law from 1985 to the present. For indexing of articles published prior to 1985, see the Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals [Reading Room K33 .I38].

Olin Library makes a large number of special subject periodical indexes available to the Washington University Community. For a complete list, go to Olin's Web page and select "Databases: Journal Indexes & More." For many of these indexes, there is an option to request items via interlibrary loan. PLEASE do not use Olin's (including WorldCat) ILL forms. You must submit your request to the Law Library's Interlibrary Loan Department via an e-mail request to or our online form.

Some selected Olin Library indexes that you may find useful are:

  • Basic BIOSIS provides access to core life science journals most easily found in college and university libraries.
  • PAIS International provides access to articles, books, conference proceedings, government documents, book chapters, and statistical directories about public affairs.

For more Olin Library indexes see:

See Also:

  • PubMed from the National Library of Medicine
    • To limit your PubMed Search to bioethics sources:
      1. Follow the PubMed link above
      2. Select the "Limits" link located right under the search query box.
      3. Under Subsets, choose "bioethics"

Research Tip: you may search by author, title and subject in all of these indexes. Author searching can be especially useful to find the works of a scholar who is known to be an expert in the field that you are researching. Use the online help to get acquainted with the search techniques for each online source (each one is a little bit different). Ask a reference librarian if you need assistance.

Citation Indexes 

As you all remember from Legal Research and Writing, citation indexes such as Shepards lists items (cases or articles) that cite your source. Many other disciplines followed the example of the law citators because they found that if you had one good article, it would be useful to see what others who were citing to it had to say. Use the Web of Science which includes Science Citation Index Expanded, Social Sciences Citation Index, and Arts & Humanities Citation Index, all from 1988 to the present. For prior years, paper versions of these three titles are available at the Olin Library.

C. Government Documents -- Using Specialized Government Documents Indexes and Resources on the Web

For years, locating government documents has been a challenge to researchers. One of the reasons this type of research tends to be more complicated is because of federal publishing patterns. The bulk of federal publishing is done by the U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO). Titles printed by the GPO are also cataloged by the GPO.

To search all of the cataloged titles (regardless of whether or not they are owned by a Washington University Hilltop Campus Library) search the MarciveWeb Docs database (coverage July 1976-present). For previous years, search the paper Monthly Catalog [Govt. Docs. GP 3.8:]. You may also search the Washington University Libraries' Online Catalog where you will find hilltop campus libraries' holdings from 1976 to the present. Because locating government documents can be tricky, feel free to ask a reference librarian for assistance.

With the advent of desktop and Web publishing, some government documents are published directly by the agencies, bypassing the GPO printing and cataloging systems. Identifying these items can be more difficult. You can try the Washington University Libraries' Online Catalog, or by searching a particular agency's Web site for full-text reports. Many GPO published documents are also on the Web (especially legislative materials). To find these documents try:

Search Engines

  • is a specialty search engine that limits queries to state and federal government domains
  • Google Uncle Sam use the search engine to find U.S. government information.

Agency Website Portals

Other Useful Government Sites

  • GAO Reports and Testimony The General Accounting Office is the investigative arm of Congress. Charged with examining matters relating to the receipt and disbursement of public funds, GAO performs audits and evaluations of Government programs and activities. GAO Reports can be very useful. Many are full text on the Web. The Law Library also collects them on Microfiche. Ask a Reference Librarian if you need assistance.
  • GPO Access search and find full text government information

D. Looseleaf Services

You can identify looseleaf publications using the Online Catalog. Some that look particularly useful are:

  • Family Law Reporter [Reserve and LC Collection KF503.4 .F34]. This title includes recent developments related to reproductive rights. The Current Developments and Reference File and Tax Guide volumes are on Reserve. The other volumes are in the LC Collection.
  • Biolaw : a Legal and Ethical Reporter on Medicine, Health Care, and Bioengineering [LC Collection KF3821.A6 B58]. Includes full text microfiche supplement, finding guide is at [2nd Floor Microform Area KF3821.A6 B58].  

E. Selected Reference Resources

F. Searching the Web

While there is a wealth of information available on the Internet, it is important to remember that this information is only as good as the source (and maybe not even that government agency was known for maintaining a site with an outdated edition of the Code of Federal Regulations). Since just about anybody can post anything to the Web, it is important to evaluate information found there with a critical eye. When evaluating web documents, look for the following information: the agency or organization maintaining the site, the person responsible for creating the site and the last revision date of the information. If you don't know the source of the information, take it with two grains of salt!

You can be more secure when using a limited access database, such as those available on Lexis-Nexis and Westlaw. These are usually produced by reputable publishers who exert editorial control over the contents and who are committed to keeping their product current. For additional databases (some of which have already been mentioned in this research guide), see the Law Library's Web Subscriptions page.

Research Tip: there is a wide variety of search engines for finding non-subscription information on the Web. For best results, take a few moments to look at the "help" or "search tips" information, as each search engine operates differently (for example some assume a Boolean "and" between two consecutive words, some assume an "or," while still others will assume a phrase).

Legal Search Engines 

General Search Engines 


IV. Finding Items in the Law Library

A. Collection Locations

As discussed above, the Law Library's holdings are indexed by the online catalog. Terminals are located throughout the Library and access is available via the Library's homepage. The following locations correspond to the "Locations" field in an Online Catalog record:


British Collection 1st Floor, West
Current (unbound) Periodicals Reserve
Federal Materials 5th Floor, East
Government Documents 2nd Floor, North
Library of Congress (LC) Collection  

AC – JX 11

4th Floor

JX 18 – JX 6731

2nd Floor - Ranges 108-113

JZ – K 2251

4th Floor

K 2252 – KF 154

2nd Floor

KF 154 – KF 750

1st Floor (temporary - shifting up to 2nd)

KF 753 - Z

2nd Floor
Microforms 2nd Floor, North
Periodicals (Bound) 5th Floor, North
Rare Book Room Ask a Reference Librarian for assistance
Reference 4th Floor, ask at Circulation Desk
Regionals (Reporters and Digests) 5th Floor, East
Reading Room 4th Floor
Reserve 4th Floor
State Materials 1st Floor, East
Superseded 1st Floor, South

V. Requesting Items That are Not Available at the Law Library

A. Washington University Hill Top Campus Libraries

If you find a book that is on campus, use the "Request" function of the online catalog to have it delivered for your pickup at the Law Library Circulation Desk, or you may visit the other campus library and check it out yourself. Rearch Tip: request books held on campus from the Washington University Online Catalog (rather than MOBIUS) to enjoy longer circulation periods and more renewal periods.

You must go make copies of journal articles at other campus libraries yourself, as journals usually do not circulate.

B. MOBIUS Requests

If a book not available on campus is available at a MOBIUS library, you may request it directly from the MOBIUS catalog. You will have a three week loan period with one renewal.

For journal articles available only from a non-Washington University MOBIUS library, please submit an interlibrary loan request.

C. Interlibrary Loan

For books not available at a MOBIUS library, as well as journal articles not available on campus, please submit an interlibrary loan request. Remember that interlibrary loan can take a few weeks, so don't wait until the last minute to do your research.

VI. Additional Assistance

If you need any additional research assistance, you can contact me at 935-6484, or stop by my office in Room 455G in the Library.

You may also ask any of our reference librarian's for assistance. You can find a reference librarian at the reference desk, or stop by one of our offices. Follow the link to the Reference Page for hours and locations.