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Research Guide for Law Co-curricular Organizations: Tips for Research and Writing

This guide presents resources primarily for Villanova University School of Law students participating in a Journal, Moot Court, Trial Team and the Sports Negotiations team.

Starting Your Research

  • Goal: locate resources that are thorough and reliable
  • As you work on your outline, consider:
1.What topics will I cover?
2.What sources should I consult (might I) consult for each section?
3.What search terms/search methods should I use?
4.Where can I find the resources I need?

Determining Reliability of a Source

  1. Use the criteria on the Checklist for Web Resources to evaluate the site or publication 
  2. Remember Currency is important!
    • Look at publication & update dates
    • Don't rely on website copyright date (may be auto-renewed without info being updated)
  3. Shepardize/Keycite resources to make sure not overruled, updated etc
  4. Consult the Top 100 Law Reviews according to Washington & Lee

Determining Thoroughness of a Source

Determining thoroughness is a bit harder...
  • Especially if you’re new to this topic area as well!
  • Think of the hierarchy of secondary sources to figure out what you can expect to get from different types of sources:
    • Legal Encyclopedias: big picture of topic, general background info, limited citations to primary authority & not used for in-depth analysis
    • Treatises: in-depth discussion & some analysis, citations to primary authority
    • Practice Guides: a particular type of treatise aimed at practitioners, often includes forms & checklists along with procedural guidelines & other practical information, light on substantive law
    • Restatements: common-law subjects, good for locating authority from jurisdictions that have adopted a Restatement
    • American Law Reports: overview of area of law & citations to primary authority—very specific, narrow topic
    • Legal Periodicals: background info, citations to primary authority, in-depth analysis of narrow topic

Statutory and Regulatory Research Tips

  • Read the entire section and chapter—don’t consult a section in isolation!
  • Annotated code is best—Notes of Decisions/Case Notes, annotations, citing references etc.
  • Use the Citing References tab to locate some related regulations (not available for all statutes)
  • Identify agencies that may impact your issue and browse the CFR Index to determine where regulations might be located; check out their website
  • Use to track pending regs or view recently promulgated regs

Search Terms & Search Methods

  • Try Boolean instead of Natural Language
  • Utilize filters and Advanced Search when possible
  • Remember to use KeyNumbers & Headnotes
  • Shepardize/Keycite
  • Consult Indexes, Tables of Contents, Popular Name Tables and other finding aids

Stay Current on Your Topic

Set up alerts for a particular topic or publication title (see the Fact Finding guide for step-by-step instructions),
  • Google alerts
  • Westlaw & Lexis Alerts
  • Bloomberg alerts
  • BNA Law reports on Bloomberg or other monthly Legal Newsletters may be helpful

Finding the Resources You Need

  • See Westlaw, Lexis, Bloomberg & other legal databases on the Law Databases page
  • Library Catalog (Search.Law) We have a lot in print including links to some government reports found online along with some online materials from PLI Plus and HeinOnline
  • Falvey Library—main campus, mostly interdisciplinary materials but some legal materials we do not own, also newspapers from around the world
    • Databases A – Z: Find or browse resources by name such as PsychInfo or Business Source Premier
    • Subject Guides: custom guides on a variety of topics with links to databases, news sources, government links etc.
    • Journal Finder: Search by publication name to see if we have access to it (must do this before can put in an ILL request!)
  • Interlibrary Loan—request items we do not own or do not have a subscription to

Tracking and Managing Research

1. Track your research using whatever method works best for you—spreadsheets, notecards, Dropbox, Google Drive
2. At a minimum, keep a research log searches that did/didn’t work, databases, search terms etc.
3. Consider using Citation management software such as Zotero
Citation Management software allows you to track your sources as you use them rather than waiting until the end of a project to retype a separate bibliography or Table of Authorities. This software also auto formats your citations in Bluebook format. (You still need to REVIEW and EDIT the citations. It's not perfect but it can save time.) For more information, check out this guide:

Writing Ethics and Other Writing Resources

Lexis for Microsoft Office

Lexis for Microsoft Office allows you to easily access Lexis from within Microsoft Word. Features include tools for cite checking, citation formating, and creation of Table of Authorities. To use Lexis for Microsoft Office you must DOWNLOAD the latest version of the software. Logon to Lexis and click on "Resources" or use this link. Available for both PC and MAC.

Books on Writing

Below are a few books on writing. For additional suggestions, consult with a Reference Librarian, review this list, or check the library catalog.

Writing Competitions for Law Students

You invested hours of time and energy on your topic. Consider submitting your note or comment to a writing competition.

Subject Guide