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Self-Representation Guide (Illinois) - Assistance for Pro Se Litigants: Research Resources

This guide provides resources for those representing their case in the courts. Content by Corrine Vogel and Michelle Hook Dewey. Additional content and LibGuide created by S.K. Van Poolen

Various Reources

This page offer a variety of resources such as web pages, journals, digests and legal writing.

Getting Started: Hints and Guides

Search Term Suggestions: 

  1. Use a dictionary, preferably a thesaurus or legal dictionary. 
  2. Pay attention to repeated words found in general topical material.
  3. Ask a librarian or person familiar with the topic for suggestions.
  4. Brainstorm by jotting down as many synonyms and related words as possible. Different resources use different terminology to refer to the same topic. For example, "children" could be listed under "minors," "infants," or "parent and child."

Case Webpages


Digests are traditional means of finding cases and correspond with various reporters.Jurisdiction-based digests include the Federal Practice Digest, the Illinois Digest and the Pacific Digest. The Decennial Digest covers all jurisdictions in 10-year increments. Digest divide the law into topics and then subdivide the themes into principles of points of law. The digest links points of law and provides brief abstracts that summarize points of a case and provide citations for each case.

Digests, while very helpful for researching a topic, tend to be available only through a licensed, commercial databases such as LexisNexis, Westlaw or Bloomberg Law. Some law libraries provide access to digests; check the online catalog or ask a reference librarian.


WestlawNext, LexisNexisAdvance, and Bloomberg Law provide the bulk of legal research for the legal profession. These databases charge a fee and tend to be very expensive. For the pro se litigant, such databases are not cost effective. However, there are a few options to obtain information.


    Law journals often provide a more advanced understanding of a legal topic. Articles contain useful case citations and  other reference useful for a research project. Journal articles tend to be subject specific and therefore some journals focus  on a  particular aspect of the law such as health law or family law. Typically, users need to access journals from a law library or university library as many journals are available via subscription only.

Other helpful resources - Illinois

Although some of these resources are intended for lawyers, law students, and law faculty use, there are some that provide valuable information such as the IICLE (Illinois Institute for Continuing Education). 


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