Legal Research for Non-Law Students

This guide is designed for non-law students who are researching a legal issue.

Contact the Law Library

The Law Library's Reference Librarians are available from 9AM - 5PM, M - F. 

Email us and we will respond as quickly as possible. 

Stop by the Circulation Desk and ask to speak to a reference librarian. 

Call 615-343-8731 and ask to speak to a reference librarian. 

A Good Place to Start

Often, a secondary source is the best place to locate relevant primary law. We recommend starting with one of the resources we mention in Beginning Your Research.

If you are uncertain which resource might be the most useful, don't hesitate to reach out and contact the law library

Case Law

Below are some of the most commonly used databases for locating state and federal case law. 

  • The public Westlaw computer: Stop in at the Massey Law Library and search cases on the Westlaw terminal. Our reference librarians are happy to help you!
  • Nexis Uni: From the "All Nexis Uni" drop down button on the main page, narrow down to Cases. 
  • Google Scholar. Select the case law radio button. 


Popular resources for accessing federal statutes: 

Popular resources for accessing Tennessee legislation: 

Popular resources for accessing municipal codes:

Regulations and Agency Decisions

Popular resources for accessing federal regulations include: 

Popular resources for accessing agency decisions include: 

  • The agency website. Usually listed under a heading like Guidance or Decisions. 
  • Nexis Uni's Administrative Materials: You can also enter the name of the agency in the main search bar, to see if there is a specific database just for that agency's decisions. 
  • Sometimes certain agency's decisions are published in other reporters or databases. The easiest way to figure out where is to check out a legal research guide on the subject. Or ask your friendly law librarian!

To locate state regulatory materials, try these strategies: 

  • Google the state + regulations. For example, that leads me to Effective Rules and Regulations of the State of Tennessee
  • Check out a research guide on that state (Google [state] + legal research guide). It should list different resources for state regulatory materials. 
  • Search Nexis Uni, narrowing by state and "Administrative Materials"
  • Check out the specific state agency website. 


The U.S. Constitution may be accessed in many places. Some popular resources include: 

A picture of the cake the law library served on Constitution Day.

State constitutions can be found:


Check out the Treaty Research Guide and contact Meredith Capps if you have any questions related to treaty research or foreign law.