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Researching Foreign & International Law: What to Do When All Else Fails

If you are researching the law in a certain country or a niche legal topic, you may feel you have hit a dead end at some point. This happens to everyone and when it does, these tips and resources should help you effectively continue your research.

When All Else Fails...

What should you do if you are researching a topic in International Law and seem to hit a dead end? Here are some helpful tips and resources to turn to when you're stuck:

  • American Ass'n. of Law Libraries- Jumpstarting Your Foreign, Comparative, and International Law Research
    • This page has a plethora of good resources to check if you are stuck in your research. The page also has a list of FCIL-SIS Specialists that are experts in various topics and countries. Their contact information can be accessed with an AALL account. 
  • Check for Country or Topic Specific Research Guides
    • Research guides, while not always fully updated or fleshed out, can be very helpful when in a pinch. They often contain links to relevant government websites, other helpful research guides, and sources for tough to find legislation. For example, Legal Information Institute (LII) research guides provide guides for Latin American and African countries that can often be difficult to begin researching. These types of research guides might be branded to certain reputable guides, some may require subscriptions, or may be provided by another institution. For example, the Library of Congress has research guides, as well as Cornell and NYU.
  • Broken or Outdated Links
    • Even when research guides have broken or outdated links, if you can find the name of the source, you may still be able to find it by searching on your own. This often happens with government websites or legislation databases, which are updated or moved. However, some government websites will restrict access from foreign IP addresses, so you may need a VPN to access certain helpful government sources. 
  • Check for Citation Information
    • If you cannot find legislation for a specific country, see if you can find the citation information. Contact a reference librarian and they may be able to help you locate what you are looking for from another source. If they can locate the documents or jurisprudence you are looking for, they should be able to help scan them as well. 
  • If government or country specific sites are in another language,...
    • Do not fret if you cannot find official documentation translated to English. You will want to find the most authoritative version of the document which will typically be in the original language. 
    • Use Google Chrome and the Google Translate extension to translate sites in foreign languages. This will allow you to keep the exact format and content of the site you are on.
  • Searching websites in their original language
    • ​​​​​​​Many English versions of websites are pared down versions rather than direct translations. Use a translation service like Google Translate to search for the website in their original language for the most accurate results. 
    • For example, compare the English version of the Turkish Patent Institute website (the main body overseeing IP in Turkey) with the Turkish version. The Turkish version is much more robust and has the most current IP legislation from 2016, along with the implementing regulations in 2017.  The English version does not. 
    • ​​​​​​​If you are using a search box on a website in another language you will need to enter your search terms in that language. Use Google Translate to generate search terms. You can also use the Google Translate app on your phone to view and translate text through your camera.