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Resources for Law Student Research Assistants

When you receive a research assignment, you may be tempted to begin searching familiar commercial legal research platforms or the web for relevant sources with little forethought.  However, it is worth pausing to plan your research

  • Know the Question:  Do I fully understand the question presented, or do I need to seek clarification regarding its scope?  Is there important context or background information that I should first understand to thoughtfully research the question?  (Understanding what you "don't know" may also require some initial research!)
  • Identify Sources:  What resources are best suited to answering my research question?  Can the faculty member recommend particular resources as a starting point?  Are there research guides available discussing my subject or jurisdiction that can direct me to the best resources?
  • Organizing My Research:  What types of material do I expect to locate, and how best might I organize those materials?  What organizational tools have worked well for me and my work style?  Does the faculty member express any preference with respect to how I organize my research findings?
  • Communicating my Findings:  What work product does the faculty member seek?  (A written memorandum or email summary?  A research log or other documentation of sources located, with or without narrative descriptions of findings?  The sources themselves organized in any particular manner?)  What is my deadline?  Does the faculty member prefer that I share or communicate my work and/or findings in a particular way?