Welcome to the Law Library's Guide to Legal Research! Researching the law can be complicated, but this guide will help you figure out what kind of law you are looking for, and then point you toward some resources that can help you find what you need.
The United States is a federal system. This means that both the federal government and states can make laws. So, it is important to consider if you are looking at a state law or a federal law or an area where there may be some overlap.
There are three sources of law: case law (law made by the courts); statutory law (law made by the legislature); and administrative law (laws made by executive agencies that have been empowered by statute).
In addition to the law itself there are many secondary sources, treatises, journal articles, and analyses. At the beginning stages of research it may be easier to begin with a scholarly explanation of the law than to go directly to the law itself. The e-resources listed on this page are excellent sources for finding both the law itself and scholarly discussion and analysis.
For example, see Lexis Univ for federal and state case law, federal and state statutory law, and law review articles. Lexis also provides a service called Shepardizing. This will inform you whether or not the case or law you are looking at has been overturned or called into question by subsequent cases or laws.
Lexis Uni can be found on the main library or the law library's A-Z list, or here (UIUC Internet connection or proxy required).
Citations to legal material can be confusing for a beginner. Examples of how a citation breaks down for statutes and cases are shown in the box below.
The Bluebook is the official guide to legal citation.
More detailed citation guides are here:
In addition to primary law, most of the resources below will have some news and analysis.
The Law Library has several resources dedicated to legal research and writing. Please drop by the library and peruse our Practical Skills collection.