Top Ten Research Tips for the summer . . . and beyond:
1. Use secondary sources first: Treatises, journal articles, practice guides, etc.
2. Don’t be afraid to ask questions: Make sure you understand the details of the assignment, including deadlines, cost constraints, context for your work, format for completion, and any relevant resources that should be consulted.
3. Jurisdiction matters: Federal law? State law? Administrative tribunal or court?
4. Use free resources: Law firms pay big bucks for legal databases, so use free sources when possible. See the library’s guide to Free Legal Research Sites for suggestions about useful resources on the web. Also, remember Bloomberg Law and Lexis Advance are offering free, unlimited Summer access.
5. Think: Of course you’re thinking while you work! But don’t just research on autopilot. Pause, consider what information you need, and which resources would best meet that need.
6. Use advanced search options: Save time by refining your database search results with filters to weed out less helpful or irrelevant results.
7. BCite, KeyCite, or Shepardize: Make sure all case law/statutes/regulations are current and valid. Use citators to expand your research.
8. Keep track of your research trail: Record the sources you’ve checked, the searches you’ve run, and your results. This prevents repetition and may be information you need to share when you complete an assignment or need to explain your results.
9. No drafts: Always present your best work. Proofread, and provide accurate citations. You will be evaluated most heavily on the quality of your written assignments.
10. Consult a librarian: Librarians can help you save time and money, and curb frustration. Firm librarians are a terrific resource so get to know them. Reference librarians at GMU Law library are also available throughout the summer, so give us a call at 703.993.8076, email us, or stop by the Reference Office.
Hat tip to MoreUs Law Library Blawg (UVA), whose excellent post has been used and freely adapted here.