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Legal Research Process

Introduction to the Guide

This guide provides a general overview of legal research resources, in rough chronological order of use - start with secondary sources before moving on to primary sources.

Secondary sources include: Primary sources include:

Generally each page within this guide includes:

  • a description of a resource,
  • when and how to use it,
  • and its strengths and weaknesses compared to other similar resources.

Among the additional resources discussed are the search engine Google and the publicly edited Wikipedia, both of which should be used with caution. 

Factors to keep in mind when evaluating a resource besides the primary vs. secondary and jurisdiction is its currency, whether it is the original, official, and has it been authenticated (by the government) somehow.

Legal research is not strictly a linear endeavor; oftentimes one will want to circle back to resources once there is more information in hand. Selected free resources are noted where appropriate as, no matter the stage of research, it can be helpful to explore free versions of legal resources before moving on to licensed databases.

This guide is not comprehensive. For those seeking a more thorough overview of the legal research process, please consult such works as Kent Olson's Principles of Legal Research. Suffolk Law also provides a handy chart of legal research resources, comparing features and coverage.

Please note, access to certain databases linked in this guide may be restricted to UT Law or the UT community; please see the library's Databases page that lays out access privileges.