It's been said – many times – that the correct answer to most legal questions is "It depends." While it may be clichéd, the statement does emphasize how each legal situation is completely unique, and governed by a complex mix of the facts, the jurisdiction, and the controlling legal authority. 50-state surveys are an excellent tool for comparing the differences between jurisdictions on a particular legal matter.
The latest edition of the National Survey of State Laws (7th ed. 2015) recently landed in the Goodson Law Library's Reference Collection. Like the previous editions, this reference work provides charts comparing state legislation on various topics, both civil and criminal. New this year, though, is an accompanying electronic edition of the National Survey series in HeinOnline. Get up to speed on state-by-state differences on such topics as legal ages (for parental emancipation, ability to sue, ability to make contracts, etc.), the minimum wage, and criminal statutes of limitations, among others. All prior editions of the National Survey, back to 1993, are also available to browse or search.
The National Survey of State Laws is just one example of a source for 50-state surveys. Duke Law also maintains a campus-wide subscription to HeinOnline's Subject Compilations of State Laws database. Based on a book series (available in the library's Reference Collection), this resource is searchable by keyword or browseable by topic, and indexes multi-state surveys from premium databases such as LexisNexis and Westlaw, footnotes and appendices to law review articles, and non-governmental organization websites. Compare, for example, the single chart on capital punishment from the 2015 National Survey with the variety of surveys retrieved with a subject search of capital punishment in the Subject Compilations.
HeinOnline will link to the full-text of any law reviews or other Subject Compilations results which are available elsewhere in the Hein database library. Note that since the latest Subject Compilations volume is 2014, the 2015 National Survey of State Laws does not yet appear in Subject Compilations search results, although presumably these results will be cross-linked in future Subject Compilations. For now, though, it is worth checking both HeinOnline libraries for 50-state surveys, in addition to a general web search for additional non-governmental organization surveys.
For help with locating 50-state surveys or legislation on a particular topic, be sure to Ask a Librarian.