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Resources for Law Student Research Assistants

Research Organization

Research Journal

Legal research is iterative and non-linear and tracking your research is an important part of the legal research process. Keep a research journal, log, or record of your work. Include the following in your journal:

  • a statement of the issue,
  • the results of our preliminary research in secondary sources,
  • research tools you consulted (databases, web content, print material),
  • searches and search terms run in electronic databases or in web search engines,
  • descriptions of any updates as your research proceeded,
  • complete citation information for sources located, including URLs and/or permalinks to electronic material,
  • your opinions, analysis, and evaluation of the sources you consulted.

Utilize Folders

As part of a cost-effective research strategy, we also recommend making use of the folders on Lexis, Westlaw and Bloomberg, or downloading material located across resources and filing it in a cloud-based folder. (Note:  If you later work in an environment where there are charges associated with viewing or downloading documents such a law firm, saving them to a folder can save you from being charged a second time if you need to view them again in the future.) Make use annotation tools to take note of why you are saving the documents.

Evernote and PowerNotes

Since many research tasks will involve using multiple databases and websites, another useful tool you have access to is Evernote or PowerNotes. With Evernote or PowerNotes, you can gather information from any online resource. You highlight the relevant text, add any wanted annotations and Evernote and PowerNotes will save the content to an online research project, similar to a folder on Westlaw or Lexis.  But with Evernote and PowerNotes, you can save content from any website or subscription databases such as Lexis, Westlaw, Bloomberg Law, HeinOnline, etc. in one place.

As you are adding sources to your research project in Evernote and PowerNotes, an outline will be built for you as you go. As you are working, you can easily restructure your arguments by dragging and dropping sources to move them around within the outline.

When you are ready to start writing, you can download your outline from PowerNotes to Microsoft Word. The download from PowerNotes to Microsoft Word will also include the links to all your sources so you will not forget where the information came from and you have all your citations saved in one place.

Citation Management: Endnote, Mendeley & Zotero

Citation management software (or bibliographic management software) allows you to create your own personal library of references to books, articles and documents. References can include citation information (author, title, publisher, etc.) as well as annotations, graphics, and even copies of the documents themselves.  These programs work with Microsoft Word and other word processors to automatically add references to your paper and format your bibliography in Bluebook style--though do not assume precise citation format accuracy; you may need to manually edit citations that will appear in a published paper.