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Researching “the law” on a particular topic is generally a multi-step process that involves checking secondary sources followed by primary sources—statutes, cases, and sometimes, administrative rules or regulations. Very rarely is there a simple answer to a legal question or a single book that will provide the answer.
This guide provides information about how to find various legal resources in the Tarlton Law Library. The guide focuses on print resources and resources available on Tarlton's subscription databases.
For information about how to find free online Texas legal resources, visit Tarlton's guide, Texas Legal Research: Free Online Resources.
Where you start depends largely on what information you already have. If you already have a citation—for example, to a statute or a case—it may provide a jumping off point to additional sources. If you don't have a citation, or are unfamiliar with an area of law, secondary sources are the best place to start. Secondary sources, which are not the law, provide background information, an introduction to the terminology of a particular topic, and valuable citations to primary sources of law (statutes, cases, administrative rules).
Secondary sources provide background information, context of the law, and terminology. They also give citations to cases, statutes, regulations, and other secondary sources. Practice guides and form books are especially useful for practice-oriented questions and/or self-representation.
Most legal questions involve statutes. Annotated statutes provide citations involving a given statute, such as cases and regulations as well as secondary sources.
Regulations are administrative rules issued by governmental agencies at the federal, state, county and municipal levels. They implement statutes passed by the legislature. Regulations have the force of law because they are created and adopted under authority granted by statutes.
Cases are opinions issued by a court. They are the rule of law when there is not an applicable statute. Cases also have to interpret statutes and regulations. Print digests are subject arrangements of case law. They serve as a type of index to case law and provide a way to expand research beyond a single case that is on point.
It is vital in legal research to have the most current information. Legal researchers must update their research as they go, especially with regard to statutes, regulations, and cases.
Tarlton does not have a print tool for updating. The database Nexis Uni provides access to the Shepard's citator, which provides information about subsequent source treatment of case law, statutes, regulations, and administrative decisions. All patrons may access Nexis Uni in person at Tarlton and at other UT Austin libraries, including PCL. Nexis Uni is available remotely to UT Austin faculty, students, and staff.