| 
  • If you are citizen of an European Union member nation, you may not use this service unless you are at least 16 years old.

  • Social distancing? Try a better way to work remotely on your online files. Dokkio, a new product from PBworks, can help your team find, organize, and collaborate on your Drive, Gmail, Dropbox, Box, and Slack files. Sign up for free.

View
 

research-methodology

Page history last edited by abogado 2 years, 3 months ago

Research Methodology

The Library offers the following outline as one possible approach to legal research. Depending on your knowledge or experience in an area, you may or may not need to complete all of the steps listed below. Most law students will benefit, however, by starting their research with an examination of secondary resources before proceeding to primary sources. If you need help at any time in using particular sources, identifying search terms, or formulating online search queries, please do not hesitate to ask for assistance at either reference desk. For a version of the outline with additional commentary, click here. In addition, detailed descriptions of various sources and research approaches can be found in several books on legal research. The following titles were used in developing this outline and are available in Reference.

Fundamentals of Legal Research ( KF 240 .J322x 2002) by Jacobstein, Mersky and Dunn

Legal Information: How to Find It, How to Use It (KF 240 .O365 1999) by Olson

Legal Research in a Nutshell (Reserve KF 240.C54 2003) by Cohen and Olson

The Process of Legal Research (Reference KF240 .P76 2000) by Kunz and others


I. Preliminary analysis: Analyze facts and frame the question

A. Objectives:

1. Learn jargon.
2. Learn blackletter law and locate basic statutes and cases.
3. Identify issues which may be answered readily through research.
4. Identify issues which need analysis after research.

B. Identify factual elements:

1. What is the THING or ACT involved?
2. Who are the PERSONS involved?
3. What is the PLACE involved?

For the factual elements, list all the words that might describe the particular fact from the most general to the most specific. These will help you both in constructing searches in books and online sources and in determining later what the important factual elements are. For example, a store may be described as property, private property, and private commercial property.

C. Identify legal elements :

1. What is the RELIEF being sought?
2. What is the PROCEDURE required?
3. What are the LEGAL THEORIES?

II. Consult secondary sources

A. Dictionaries, thesauri--will help with jargon and terms of art.

B. Encyclopedias, broad survey materials--will provide blackletter law.

C. Practitioner materials--will help with blackletter law and procedural issues.

D. Scholarly treatises--will focus on the finer points.

E. Law reviews--will push the legal issues to the cutting edge.

III. Evaluate research

A. What questions have already been answered?

B. What legal theories need to be modified or redirected? What new legal theories have been identified requiring additional research?

C. What facts appear to be the crucial facts supporting the developing legal theories? Which descriptions of your facts from general to specific trigger the applicable law?

D. What is the core legal theory that is developing from the facts and legal theories?

IV. Locate primary authority

A. Objectives:

1. Locate controlling or mandatory authority in the form of case law, statutory law or regulatory law.
2. Locate court opinions construing mandatory statutes or regulations.
3. Locate persuasive authority in the absence of clear mandatory authority.

B. Sources:

1. Secondary sources should have identified for you cases, statues and regulations.
2. Annotated codes: use index or online sources to find statutes and consult annotations to locate cases, references to regulations, and secondary sources.
3. Regulations: access via index and online sources.
4. Cases: use digests and descriptive word index or known topic and key number. Also online sources.
5. Looseleaf services will provide both primary and secondary materials.
6. Scholarly treaties and other secondary sources.
7. Online sources: use if

a. you have a specific and narrowly defined legal issue or factual situation.
b. issues can be expressed in a limited and clearly defined way.
c. combined search terms that are not too common (such as crime, court, trial).
d. issue is not one of procedure.
e. issue is in new or developing area.

V. Reevaluate research

A. What questions have already been answered?

B. What legal theories need to be modified or redirected? What new legal theories have been identified requiring additional research?

C. What facts are appearing to be the crucial facts supporting the developing legal theories? Where on the hierarchy of your characterization of the facts does the desirable law become applicable?

D. What is the core legal theory that is developing from the facts and legal theories?

VI. Update research

A. Objectives:

1. Insure currency of material.
2. Identify new developments.

B. Sources:

1. Shepard's and other citator services such as looseleafs.
2. Westlaw: KeyCite.
3. Lexis: Shepard's.
4. Current development sources such as newsletters and looseleafs.

VII. When are you done with your research?

A. If you research an issue from several sources and continue to retrieve the same materials, you are probably finished.
B. If your research continues to identify new materials but they contribute nothing further to the theories of the case, you are probably finished.

VIII. Blackletter rules

To follow is your growing list of basic advice. Try to keep these simple rules in mind as you do your research.

A. Never assume the absence of relevant legislation.

B. Research separable questions separately.

C. Research dispositive issues first.

D. Always check latest supplement, including the supplement to indexes.

E. Double check search within every source.

F. Maintain a record of your research; list what you found with applicable citations.

G. Start with the fast and easy; save most difficult and comprehensive sources until last.

H. Librarians are resources.

 

Comments (0)

You don't have permission to comment on this page.