Home · Research Bookmarks · Research Guides Thinking About Legal Research Problems

Thinking about Legal Research Problems

By Paul D. Callister, JD, MSLIS

Library Director & Associate Professor of Law



Find out everything you can about the research problem.Define the kind of information problem.Determine whether primary, secondary or combined sources are most appropriate.For primary materials, determine the kind of law, jurisdiction and appropriate arrangementPutting it all together to find a relevant documentBack to Research Cycle

Being Thorough (After You Have Found a Relevant Legal Document)

(Principal Resources are in White)

The Research Cycle

Type of Source* Kind 
of Law*
Arrangement* Objective Tool Explanation
Primary*
Case
Law*
Chronological
(Reporters)*
Checking Status
Shepard's citators, LEXIS Shepards (updated daily), Westlaw Keycite Check for status (overruled, reversed, distinguished, criticized, explained, etc.).  Track all subsequent citations including law reviews (Shepards).  Treatment dictated by editorial review (Shepards).  Ties in to West Key Numbers (Shepards by headnote).
LEXIS Auto-cite Check citation validity, bluebook and status (including other jurisdictions and ALR).  Gives subsequent cases which may weaken precedential value and prior cases negatively impacted by the case in question.
Finding Similar
Cases
and Interpreting Correctly
LEXIS "More Like", "More Like Selected Text", "More Like Core Cites" Retrieves cases with the same core terms (based on Natural Language searching), terms in a selected passage of text, or same citation pattern.
West and Westlaw's Key Number System Identify the West Key Number  in a case and find similar cases in the appropriate jurisdictions.
LEXIS LEXCITE Expansive search tool which checks for references in other cases, code, ALR, law reviews, Federal Register, etc.
Encyclopedias (Illinois Jurisprudence, Corpus Juris Secundum and Am Jur 2d), ALR, looseleafs, treatises Use "Table of Cases" to review secondary sources to make sure interpretation and understanding of the case and its significance is correct.  Looseleafs often have a volume of current cases and rulings or advance sheets.
Topical
(Digests)*
Checking
Status
Pocket parts and supplements Check for updates.
Statutory
Law*
Chronological
(Session Laws & Bills)*
Checking
Status
Advance sheets, legislative services, and daily legal news services, USCCAN supplement Check for new session laws (often by Public Law no.).
Shepard's citators, LEXIS Shepards (updated daily), Westlaw Keycite Check for status (treatment by courts and subsequent legislation).  Also includes citation in attorney general opinions, law review articles and administrative decisions.  Note that codified version is usually cited and should be Shepardized, and  that you need to check for renumbering of code sections.
Thomas Legislative Information (thomas.loc.gov/home/thomas.html), Illinois General Assembly site (www.legis.state.il.us/ ), LEXIS (e.g., LEGIS;BLTRCK and LEGIS;AALALS files) and Westlaw (e.g., BILLTRK) Use to check the status of bills and legislation.
Topical
(Code)*
Checking Status
Pocket parts and supplements Check for updates.
Legislative service Check "Table of Code Sections Added, Amended, Repealed or Otherwise Affected."  The Office of Law Revision Council publishes a "list of code sections affected" at uscode.house.gov/uscct.htm.
Shepard's citators, LEXIS Shepards (updated daily), Westlaw Keycite Check for status (treatment by courts and subsequent legislation).  Also includes citation in attorney general opinions, law review articles and administrative decisions.  Need to use codified version and check for renumbering.
Finding Similar
Statutes
and Interpreting Correctly
Annotations Check annotations to learn treatment and interpretation in the courts. 
LEXIS LEXCITE Expansive search tool which checks for references in other cases, code, ALR, law reviews, Federal Register, etc.
LEXIS "More Like", "More Like Selected Text", "More Like Core Cites" Retrieves code sections (in the same or other jurisdictions) and other materials with the same core terms (based on Natural Language searching) or terms in a selected passage of text.
Uniform Laws Annotated, United States Uniform Laws on the Web Compare uniform and model acts in other jurisdictions, and annotations. 
Encyclopedias (Illinois Jurisprudence, Corpus Juris Secundum and Am Jur 2d), ALR, news letters, looseleafs, treatises Use "Table of Statutes" or other finding aide to review secondary sources to make sure interpretation and understanding of the statute and its significance is correct.  Looseleafs often have a volume of current cases and rulings or advance sheets.
Administrative
Law*
Chronological
(Register)*
Checking Status
Supplement to the Code of Federal Regulations Index Check "CFR Section Number Index" for sections of the CFR amended, repealed, affected, etc. by new regs in the Register.  You cannot check status of Federal Register entry except by finding the corresponding CFR number (if any) and using the LSA (see below under "Topical Code"), or by doing a LEXIS or Westlaw search (after June 1980 only) for subsequent citations to the original register entry.
Interpreting Correctly
LEXIS LEXCITE Expansive search tool which checks for references in other cases, code, ALR, law reviews, federal register, etc.
Encyclopedias (Illinois Jurisprudence, Corpus Juris Secundum and Am Jur 2d), ALR, news letters, looseleafs, treatises Use "Table of Regulations" or other finding aide to review secondary sources to make sure interpretation and understanding of the regulations and its significance is correct.  Looseleafs often have a volume of current cases and rulings or advance sheets.
Topical
(Code)*
 Checking Status
Code of Federal Regulations List of CFR Sections Affected (LSA), National Archives LSA site (www.access.gpo.gov/nara/lsa/aboutlsa.html) Check for for sections of the CFR amended, repealed, affected etc.
Shepard's Code of Federal Regulations Citations, LEXIS Shepards (updated daily), Westlaw Keycite Check for status (treatment by courts).  Also includes citation in law review articles and ALR.
Interpreting Correctly
LEXIS LEXCITE Expansive search tool which checks for references in other cases, code, ALR, law reviews, federal register, etc.
Encyclopedias (Illinois Jurisprudence, Corpus Juris Secundumand Am Jur 2d), ALR, news letters, looseleafs, treatises Use "Table of Regulations" or other finding aide to review secondary sources to make sure interpretation and understanding of the regulations and its significance is correct.  Looseleafs often have a volume of current cases and rulings or advance sheets.
Secondary*
Checking Status
Pocket parts and supplement of Am Jur 2d, Corpus Juris Secundum, Illinois Jurisprudence, treatises and hornbooks, restatements Check for updates.
Finding Similar
Materials
LEXIS "More Like", "More Like Selected Text", "More Like Core Cites", LegalTrac (Subscription UIUC Database) Retrieves journal articles and other secondary materials with the same core terms (based on Natural Language searching) or terms in a selected passage of text.
Shepard's Law Review Citations Check for status (treatment by courts since 1957) and other law review articles since 1986).
Combined*
Checking Status
Looseleafs Updated by mail inserts (check date on pages).  Also often include current cases and rulings volume and newsletters.

Other Resources
 

Small pointer arrowPhone: 816/235-1650
  5100 Rockhill Road
  Kansas City, MO 64110-2499
  Web Comments: Paul Callister

  UMKC School of Law
   Leon E. Bloch Law Library
  Mission, Vision & Values
   www1.law.umkc.edu/library

Small pointer arrowFax: 816/235-5274 
 2002 UMKC Law Schoo
DMCA and copyright info 
Last Update: 01/21/2011  



© 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 Paul D. Callister