Law students and lawyers will some times start their research on the internet, but rarely do they finish there. Real legal research is conducted in specific sources like case law, codes and regulations. While some of these sources are available on the internet the coverage is not usually comprehensive or up-to-date.
Secondary sources are materials that explain, analyze,critique or help you find the law. Law reviews are a great resource to get started. You can access them through the database JSTOR or the direct links below.
A basic understanding of the United States legal system is essential to knowing what to look for and where to find it. The legal system is actually three parallel systems -- federal law, state law, and administrative law -- operating under the authority of the US and state Constitutions. The primary law of each system flows from three primary sources:
Once you have identified useful cases, it is important to update the cases before you rely on them. Updating case law means checking to see if it is still "good law." Using Shepard's, you can see if a case has been overruled, reaffirmed, questioned, or cited by later cases.
RefWorks is a new way to collect, manage, and organize research. You can read, annotate, organize, and cite your research as well as collaborate by sharing collections.
From simple bibliographies to papers formatted with in-text citations or footnotes, RefWorks handles it all. To learn more about RefWorks, use our RefWorks research guide.
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Name v. Name, Volume Source Page (Court Date)
Lessard v. Schmidt, 349 F. Supp. 1078 (E.D. Wis. 1972)
To cite the reference in text, give the case name, in italics, and the year.
Name v. Name (Year)
(Name v. Name, Year)
Lessard v. Schmidt (1972)
(Lessard v. Schmidt, 1972)
In APA Style, most legal materials are cited in the standard legal citation style used for legal references across all disciplines.
A statute is a law or act passed by a legislative body. As with court decisions, statutes exist on both the federal and state levels, such as an act by Congress or by a state government.
Name of Act, Title Source § Section Number (Year). URL
Every Student Succeeds Act, 20 U.S.C. § 6301 (2015). https://www.congress.gov/114/plaws/publ95/PLAW-114publ95.pdf
The in-text citation format for a federal statute is similar to that for other APA Style references. Cite the name of the statute and the year.
Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (2006)
(Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, 2006)
Last name, Initials. (Year). Title, sentence style capitalization. Journal name, volume, starting page.
Martin, L. H. (1991). Case worker liability for the negligent handling of child abuse reports. University of Cincinnati Law Review, 60, 191.
Last name, Initials, & Last name, Initials. (Year, month day). Title, sentence style capitalization. Newspaper name. URL
Guariano, B. (2017), December 4). How will humanity react to alien life? Psychologists have some predictions. The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/speaking-of-science/wp/2017/12/04/how-will-humanity-react-to-alien-life-psychologists-have-some-predictions