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European Union Research Guide: Online Library Support

A brief guide on finding and using EU law resources

Finding and using EU law resources

The European Union is a partnership between member states. The UK joined in 1973, but gave notice on 29 March 2017 that it was going to leave, and left the Union on 31 January 2020.

The EU has its own legislature and executive, as well as an independent judiciary, with powers conferred through the founding Treaties.

A detailed online guide to all legal and institutional aspects of the European Union is regularly updated by the European Parliament. It is available online as Fact sheets on the European Union.


Law Librarian @ Exeter

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Lee Snook (Exeter)
Subjects: Law

Finding Resources Using Library Search

Library Search

Search across the print and online collections for books, chapters, articles, journals and lots more. 

Library Search will help you discover books, journals, articles, audio visual material and more on your chosen topic. This is a good place to start when you are beginning to research a topic as you can draw on content from a variety of different sources.

For more in depth research in databases and archives, use the A-Z Databases List.

I am looking for ...

You have access to many law books related to  EU Law. Where possible, books are made available in ebook format for improved accessibility. Use Library Search to find books available to you in print and electronic form at the University. You can search by author, title or topic to discover relevant books.

The print copies of books are available in the Law Library and are classified according to the Moys Classification scheme.

Works on the national law of European countries @ KV 60-4999

Works on European Union law and policy @ KW 1-149

You can also use Find-eR to explore the print and electronic collections of the European Commission libraries.
Most library resources are now available online: full-text articles, ebooks, and databases. 

You have access to many law related journals and these are primarily available in online format. The print copies of journals are available on rolling shelving in the Law Library.  Take a look at the Law Journals Guidance for detailed information on all aspects of finding law journals.


Tips for finding EU related journal information


1. If you are looking for a specific journal title...

Run a Journal Search using Library Search e.g. European law review.  You can then use the online links to access the full text journal. 

Not every law journal title appears Library Search - for example some of the international content available via Westlaw and lexis is not shown there and is only available by going direct to those databases.   

 1. Check Library Search

2. Check the Databases

3. Contact the Law Librarian if you need help.


2. If you are looking for articles on an EU related topic ...

Use Library Search and enter your search terms. This will help you discover journal articles, reports, book chapters and conference proceedings.

Not all journal content is accessible via Library Search so you will need to use the legal databases for comprehensive searching.  

Contact your Law Librarian if you need help with searching.

This example shows a selection of journal articles relating to EU law and Brexit. 


You can also use the Find-eR to explore the print and electronic collections of the European Commission libraries.
Most library resources are now available online: full-text articles, ebooks, and databases. 

The database you will use most often for EU law research is the freely available EUR-Lex service. EUR-Lex is the official legal information database of the EU and includes, EU treaties, agreements, legislation, case law and official publications. An introductory video will introduce you to finding sources.

You can also find EU case law, legislation and commentary on the two major legal database services:

About the Court of Justice of the European Union

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) is the judicial authority of the European Union. It oversees the uniform application and interpretation of European Union Law in co-operation with the national judicial systems of the national states. The CJEU resolves legal disputes between national governments and EU institutions, and may also take action against EU institutions on behalf of individuals, companies or organisations whose rights have been infringed

The CJEU is based in Luxembourg and should not be confused with:

  • The European Court of Human Rights, which is an arm of the Council of Europe, which enforces and interprets the European Convention on Human Rights. The European Court of Human Rights sits in Strasbourg.
  • The Court of Auditors which is a separate EU body whose role is to examine the revenue and expenditure accounts of EU institutions, ensuring that EU funds are spent in accordance with budgetary rules.

The CJEU is divided into 2 courts:

  • Court of Justice – deals with requests for preliminary rulings from national courts, certain actions for annulment and appeals.  Informally known as European Court of Justice (ECJ) 
  • General Court – rules on actions for annulment brought by individuals, companies and, in some cases, EU governments. In practice, this means that this court deals mainly with competition law, State aid, trade, agriculture, trade marks.  Previously known as the Court of First instance.  

The European Union Civil Service Tribunal was a specialised court within the  CJEU from 2005-2016, and its role was to adjudicate in disputes between the European Union and its civil service. These cases are now heard by the General Court.

Searching online for EU Case Law

The recommended services for online searching for EU case law are the specialiased services:


Eur-Lex: free and official legal server of the European Union. It provides access to all secondary legislation of the European Union and all case law of the CJEU courts.  Use the online tutorials for guidance.


Curia: free and offical website of the CJEU. Online Help is available.


You can also search full text EU case law via Lexis and Westlaw.

The ABC of EU Law is a useful reference work to aid understanding the legal order of the EU.

EU Primary Legislation (treaties)

Primary legislation consists of founding, amending and accession treaties which were used to set up and change the constitution of the EU.

The EU treaties are binding agreements between EU member countries. They set out EU objectives, rules for EU institutions, how decisions are made and the relationship between the EU and its member countries. Every action taken by the EU is founded on treaties.

The easiest database to use for treaty research is Eur-Lex - Treaties but you can also use Lexis and Westlaw for treaty research.

EU Secondary Legislation (regulations, directives, decisions etc.)

EU secondary legislation consists of various legal instruments

  • binding legal instruments (regulations, directives and decisions)
  • non-binding instruments (resolutions, opinions)
  • other instruments (EU institutions’ internal regulations, EU action programmes, etc.)

The easiest resources to use for legislation research is EUR-Lex - Legislation, but but you can also use Lexis and Westlaw to find the various legal instruments.

Tracking legislative progress

You can use EUR-Lex's Legislative Procedures to follow the life cycle of a legislative proposal from the moment it is launched until the final law is adopted.

The European Parliament's Legislative Observatory enables you to follow the decision-maling process for all EU legislative and non-legisaltive procedures going through the European Parliament


The Official Journal - OJ

The Official Journal of the EU - known colloquially as the OJ - is the official gazette of the EU.  It has two main series:

  • L Series: publishes legislation (directives, regulations etc) and some primary legislation. 
  • C series: publishes other official documents from EU Institutions. C represents  'Information & Notices'  from the French 'Communications et Informations'). Content includes  most primary legislation (the Treaties), preparatory legislative documents, European Parliament minutes, case summaries and other documents.

EUR-Lex provides easy access to all OJ content.

COM Docs - (Commission Documents)

COM Docs are a series of official publications produced by the European Commission for the attention of other EU institutions, such as the Council of the EU or the European Parliament. They have reference numbers prefixed 'COM' (standing for 'Commission'), for example, COM (2018) 231. 


They include numerous different types of document, such as proposals for legislation, green papers, white papers and reports on the implementation of policy. They are accessible online via EUR-Lex.


Other EU Official Publications

Use Europa to explore other official publications from the various EU institutions.

Citing EU Law

When submitting academic work for assessment, you must provide full details of all of the sources you consulted.  

For detailed assistance, check out the Citing Legal Sources support guide.

A referencing standard called OSCOLA (The Oxford University Standard for Citation of Legal Authorities) has been developed to facilitate accurate citation of authorities, legislation, and other legal materials. It is widely used in law schools and by journal and book publishers in the UK and beyond. OSCOLA is edited by the Oxford Law Faculty, in consultation with the OSCOLA Editorial Advisory Board.

You can view or download the full 4th edition of OSCOLA to help you format your references. 

An OSCOLA Quick Reference guide, is also available and addresses commonly used legal materials including EU law examples. 


Section 2.6 of OSCOLA provides guidance and examples on European Union legal sources


Changes to citation of EU cases and legislation - latest OSCOLA FAQs

CJEU cases and the ECLI

The OSCOLA editorial board will discuss treatment of the European Case Law Identifier when preparing the 5th edition. In the meantime, writers who wish to include the ECLI when citing cases from the Court of Justice of the European Union should treat it much like a neutral citation, adding it after the case name and before the report citation. For example:

Case C-176/03 Commission v Council EU:C:2005:542, [2005] ECR I-7879.

For unreported cases, cite the ECLI rather than the OJ notice or the court and date (as advised in OSCOLA 2.6.2). For example:

Case C-542/09 Commission v the Netherlands EU:C:2012:346.

EU legislation – numbering change

Please note that from 1 January 2015 onwards, the numbering of EU legislation has changed, and that under the new approach EU legislation will bear a unique, sequential number. This number should be cited in the form: (domain/body) YYYY/no. For example:

Council Regulation (EU) 2015/159 of 27 January 2015 amending Regulation (EC) No 2532/98 concerning the powers of the European Central Bank to impose sanctions [2015] OJ L27/1

Council Decision (CFSP) 2015/236 of 12 February 2015 amending Decision 2010/413/CFSP concerning restrictive measures against Iran [2015] OJ L39/18

The numbering of documents published before 1 January 2015 remains unchanged (see OSCOLA 2.6.1).

Brexit Resources

You will find lots of Brexit discussion material in the legal literature and in other subject disciplines such as politics, business etc.

This topic is also heavily featured in the news resources.

Use Library Search as a starting point to find recent full text material on Brexit issues. This example shows a selection of materials relating to EU law and Brexit. 

A few key resources for you to explore are highlighted below.


OUP's European Law Resource Centre 
Regularly updated commentary, drawn from a range of OUP authors
OUP's Brexit hub
Selection of resources exploring the past, present and future UK and EU relationship
Practical Law database.
Take a look at the EU Law and Brexit sections in the Practice Areas
Middle Temple Library's  Brexit guide
Signposting sources of information relating to the UK's EU referendum and Brexit. 
House of Commons Library - Brexit
A reading list of post-EU Referendum publications by Parliament and the Devolved Assemblies

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