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Strategies for Success with Legal Research  

Steps for conducting efficient and effective legal research
Last Updated: Jun 30, 2015 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates


Learning about the subject

Use your research vocabulary as a source of search terms for both online and manual sources.   These sources also contain citations to relevant primary authority.


SOURCES: Legal Encyclopedias

Legal Encyclopedias are useful when you know nothing about a particular area of law.  With an Encyclopedia, you get a general idea of the topic.  However, a legal encyclopedia will not give you in-dept knowledge of a particular subject.

List of Federal and California Legal Encyclopedias:

American Jurisprudence 2d
Call Number: LRC Reading Room KF154 .A542

California Jurisprudence
Call Number: LRC California KFC80 .C153

Corpus Juris Secundum
Call Number: LRC Reading Room (KF154 .C674) plus 100+ more

Summary of California Law - Witkin
Call Number: LRC Reserve (KFC80 .W5 2005) plus 38 more

SOURCES: Treatises

Treatises focuse on a single area of law, such as trademarks, in much greater detail than a legal encyclopedia.  Treatises can also lead you to relevant primary authority such as cases.

Do a keyword search for background materials on the libraries' online catalog using the search terms you have listed.

SOURCES: Law Review Articles

Law review articles are the most detailed of a particular area of law.  In addition, law reviews are the most persuasive source of secondary authority.  However, the focus of law reviews are so narrow that you will probably not find a law review article that is relevant to your area of research.  In addition, a law review article is probably not a good source for locating relevant cases.


SOURCES: Other Secondary Materials

In addition to the secondary materials already mentioned, there are other secondary sources that might be relevant to your research.

Follow the links for examples of other secondary materials:

Restatements of the Law, various topics
Restatements were created to "clean up" the law. Restatements are highly reliable, but some restatements state what the law should be, rather than what the law actually is.

Cover Art
ISBN: 031421187X
Hornbooks generally state reliable principles of black letter law. However, almost every author of a hornbook has also written a separate multi-volume treatise on the same topic, and generally the treatise is the better authority to cite.


SOURCES: Looseleaf Sets

Looseleaf sets are a type of legal resource which brings together a variety of types of information from either primary or secondary sources concerning a particular topic or area of law.  Looseleaf sets are good at keeping up with current events in the law

Click on the links to see examples from major publishers  of looseleaf sets:


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