Saturday, May 30, 2015

Start Smart on Summer Research

Sometimes, it can seem like your summer employer has asked for the impossible, or at least the very unfamiliar. Quick keyword searches on WestlawNext and Lexis Advance just aren't cutting it, or perhaps you aren't even sure what words to use in your search? The best legal researchers know that a smart start is the key to completing research assignments efficiently and effectively. While the Goodson Law Library remains available on weekdays over the summer to provide guidance, our research tips for beginning a new project can help you shine all on your own.

If you missed the library's 2L Research Refresher workshop in March, the slides and handout are available on our Workshops & Instruction page. The workshop provided an overview of real-world research steps, including tips for brainstorming potential search words, locating useful secondary sources and research guides, and searching primary authority effectively. In particular, resources like Zimmerman's Research Guide and's custom search engine of all ABA-accredited law school websites can help you find preexisting research guides on an unfamiliar legal topic.

Our Research Refresher emphasized the importance of using encyclopedias, but you should also keep in mind the value of consulting treatises. Legal treatises can range from a single-volume handbook or overview to a multi-part, in-depth exploration of a particular topic, and they will provide helpful footnotes to primary authority to aid further research. While treatises do appear in search results on WestlawNext and Lexis Advance, it is often more efficient to browse or search a treatise text directly, rather than filter through large amounts of secondary source results in the hopes of locating a useful treatise section. Several resources can help you discover relevant treatise titles and their online locations.
  • We hope you held on to your first-year legal research textbook – Legal Research in a Nutshell Appendix B contains a list of legal treatises by subject, with information about online availability. (Although the appendix isn't included, the nutshell companion website also maintains helpful links for online legal research.)
  • Georgetown Law maintains a Treatise Finder guide for more than 60 legal topics. Each page in the alphabetical topic listing includes a list of selected treatises, with brief descriptions, and information about online availability in Westlaw, Lexis, Bloomberg, or other sources.
  • On the hunt for more treatises on a topic? Consult Legal Information Buyer's Guide and Reference Manual, an annual guide to legal publications which contains useful reviews of print and electronic legal resources. Although the two most recent editions are not available in full text online, even the slightly older 2012 edition in HeinOnline can provide helpful recommendations for subject treatises (Chapter 27) and state-specific materials (Chapter 28). Those two chapters provide more than 500 pages of reviews and recommendations for legal treatises and other publications.
Still stumped on a particular research question? Contact the library's Reference Services Desk on weekdays from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm this summer. Be sure to consult with your employer before enlisting outside assistance, and be mindful of client confidentiality when describing your question.