Indexes are article finding-tools that tell you whether or not articles on certain topics or by certain authors exist, and they give complete citations to these articles.
Indexes are essential for preemption checking for two reasons:
Coverage: the two competing indexes for law review articles, between them, cite to almost every law review or journal article ever published. This gives them better coverage than almost any full-text tool. If you are trying to prove the negative — that no article like yours exists — it helps to know that you have searched sources covering (almost) all published articles.
Topical labeling: indexes use labels or tags (commonly called "subject headings" or "descriptors") to show what topics, cases, or statutes an article discusses. These labels let you identify the articles that are actually about the subject, case, or statute you plan to write about, as opposed to those that merely contain offhand references. And using uniform, consistent subject headings/descriptors in your searches greatly increases the chances that you will find all articles on a topic regardless of the terminology the authors may have used.
At USF, we have access to this index for law review articles: Index to Legal Periodicals (ILP). If you have search ILP — ideally using a variety of key word, subject/descriptor, and statute or case name searches — you are well on the way to completing a thorough preemption check.
Index to Legal Periodicals is a comprehensive collection of citations to articles from academic law reviews and other scholarly legal publications. The online version covers 1908 to the present
You can use Index to Legal Periodicals to discover relevant subject headings/labels. These subject labels will lead you to additional relevant articles and can suggest further search terms for your preemption check.
Current Index to Legal Periodicals (CILP) is a weekly, topical list of new law review articles. Citations to newly-published articles often show up in CILP before they appear anywhere else. CILP is available on Westlaw, and the Zief Library keeps the current year's CILP in print at K 33 .C85 Law Reference.
If your project involves foreign law, include the Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals in your preemption check to make sure that you haven't been preempted by an article published abroad.
So you have a citation to a great-sounding article — but not direct link to the full text....
How do you tell if the article is available at USF?
Just use USF's "Journal Finder" to look up the title of the journal that published the article. If that journal is available at USF, it will (usually) show up in the journal finder.
(One caveat: the Journal Finder doesn't tell you if a journal is on Westlaw or on Lexis Advance.)