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Legal Research

Use this guide to locate information about laws, statutes, regulations cases, legal opinions and how to conduct legal research.

Getting Started

A good place to start researching legal matters is with secondary sources such as law review articles, newspapers, journals and reference materials (legal encyclopedias and dictionaries).  This will give you a general idea of the facts and issues surrounding a case. You can find this type of information in databases such as WestLaw, Legal Collection, Academic Search Complete, or Proquest Newsstand.  Click on the Database/Articles tab to access these sources.  You may also find reference and background information by searching the online catalog for books and ebooks.  Click on the Book tab to see featured books and search the catalog.

After reviewing secondary sources, move on to primary sources such as case law, statutes, and regulations. These types of sources can be found in the WestLaw database on the Database/Articles page of this guide and government websites listed under the Website tab.

Research Tips

How to Read a Legal Citation: Knowing how to read a legal citation is very helpful when doing legal research.  West Texas A&M University Library has a quick, easy to understand overview about reading legal citations.  If you need a little bit more information try The Legal Research Guide created by Boston College Law Library.

Finding a Legal Citation: Often the easiest way to find a case in a legal database such as WestlawNext is to search by citation.  If you Google the case name and add the word "citation" to you search you will get the case citation.  For example if you wanted to find the citation for Marbury v. Madison, you would enter Marbury v. Madison citation.

Understanding the Westlaw Key Number System: The West Key Number System is the most widely used indexing method for court cases and precedent.  Review the Westlaw website to understand how to use the West Key Number system.

Using the KeyCite Feature in WestLaw Database: The KeyCite feature is a citation checking service that allows you to determine whether cases or statutes are still good law. This article is taken from the Help section on the Westlaw website.  It explains how to use the KeyCite feature