The guide is intended to help non-law students locate the legal materials they need. It is organized as follows:
1. Identifying a legal research issue.
It is merely intended as a primer. If you are tackling a large legal research issue, we strongly recommend that you reach out to the Law Library. Our librarians are happy to answer questions via email or in-person, at the Reference Desk or by appointment.
Legal sources are often used for research in other disciplines, such as history and sociology, but historians and sociologists use the legal sources for a purpose or result different from that of a law student or practicing attorney. Even if you are using legal sources, you may not be doing legal research.
Legal research is a search for statements of the law found in statutes, cases, or other primary sources of law that can be used to predict how a court would decide a dispute involving a specific fact situation.
Legal research is always library research, whether it is done in books or computer databases.
Before digging into your legal research, you will want to narrow your issue. This will allow you to identify exactly what type of material you need to locate. If you are not sure how to narrow your issue, you may want to begin with some initial research and reading into the broader area of law. Contact the Reference Desk if you are uncertain where to begin. Some resources that are commonly used to gain basic understanding about an area of law are: