It's important to begin your research with a plan. That plan should include both your goals (what are the questions you hope to answer?) and methods for accomplishing those goals (what are the sources you plan to find and examine?).
While your initial instincts to run some searches in Google and in Westlaw or Lexis' caselaw databases may yield some promising results, your plan should be much richer and more detailed in terms of the specific sources you plan to search, and should include the sources most likely to yield the types of materials you need for your research.
If you're having trouble getting started, take a look at the Tips: The Problem of Being Too Interested: How to Focus handout (link at left).
- Read several articles on the topic.
- Figure out which disciplines outside law are implicated by your topic, and determine which databases you ought to search
- Initial scope ideas are usually too broad; use this search to help narrow your scope, and revise your searching as necessary.
- Consider what other resources are implicated by your topic.
- Is there a Federal or state agency involved? Look at their website, and/or at documents on Westlaw/Lexis
- Are there any organizations or associations that are involved? Find them, and see if they have compiled any resources (e.g., 50-state surveys)
- What is the relevant law that you need to consider? Look for both secondary sources about the topic, and gather the primary resources as well.
- Continuing Research
- What questions do you need to answer through your continuing research?
- What sources do you plan to consult?
- Be sure you have what you need to answer your question or support your argument
- Ask yourself whether there are materials you still need
- Read, read, read, and reformulate your scope
Complicated areas of the law, or highly regulated areas may prompt more time with the librarians than just your required meetings. You are all welcome and invited to seek guidance on your research plan before your scheduled meeting. You can visit the reference desk or contact me directly for a meeting.