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Legal Research

This research guide introduces users to the legal research process. If you're new to legal research, it's best to follow this guide step-by-step.
About Secondary Sources

With Step 1 complete, the next step is to consult secondary sources such as legal encyclopedias, law reports, journals, treatises, and restatements. Consulting secondary sources early in the search process can save time by serving as a springboard to primary sources. Secondary sources can also help put everything into context and identify key legal terms. In most cases, one or all of these secondary sources is a good place to start your research--be sure to consult them to speed up your research at the outset.

Legal Encyclopedias

Legal encyclopedias provide general background information on various legal subjects and provide citations to cases, statutes, and other useful resources. General and jourisdiction specific Legal encyclopedias are available in print and digital formats.

American Law Reports (ALR)

Similar to legal encyclopedia entries, American Law Reports "annotations" give you a broad overview of many legal topics and point you to primary sources, especially cases. American Law Reports (ALR) is a very useful secondary source that provides a good survey of legal topics across jurisdictions. Particularly good for case law research, ALR "annotations" are similar to legal encyclopedia entries. Unlike legal encyclopedias, however, ALR doesn't cover all legal topics, so it's often the case that you won't find an annotation for your topic.

Law Reviews

These periodicals often provide valuable analysis of legal topics you may be exploring. Law reviews are law student-run publications covering a wide range of legal topics. Law review articles are typically written by law professors and practitioners; law review "notes" are shorter pieces written by law students. Law review articles are good secondary sources to consult alongside AmJur and ALR. A law review article or note that speaks to your legal topic can provide valuable context and additional references to statutes and cases.

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Search Tricks


Tired of typing out different versions of the full word? Try truncation. Use ! or * at end of the word to search for similar words.

HeinOnline Word LexisNexis Word Words searched
child! child* child, childcare, child's, childhood, children, children's, etc.
annul! annul* annul, annuls, annulled, annulment, annulments, annulling, etc.
genet! gemet* genethics, genetic, genetics, genetical, genetically, geneticism, geneticist, etc/