Legal Research Guides
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Legal research guides can help you identify and efficiently use legal resources. They may explain how an area of law is structured, especially with regard to its publications. For example, a federal tax research guide may explain the various kinds of regulations issued by the Treasury Department, their numbering scheme, the purpose of the preamble, where regulations are published, and how they can be located. These guides may also help you structure your search.

There are general guides to legal research, which cover the field broadly, and specialized guides. The general guides often include sections on specialized but widespread areas, such as employment law or environmental law.

Strategies for Finding Guides

Here are three good ways to locate legal research guides:

1. Search the catalog of an academic law library collection to locate book-length research guides. In the Drake catalog, one way to locate these items is to use the phrase legal research as a subject search term. This can be coupled with either a subject or a word or phrase search for the area in which you are interested. (For example: subject: legal research and word or phrase: international.) At the end of this page, there is a list of some of the legal research guides owned by the Drake Law Library.

2. Search the Web for legal research guides. Law library Web pages often provide legal research guides on a wide range of topics, as do sites like LLRX, GlobaLex and Zimmerman’s Research Guide. The Law Scout offers a searchable database of legal research guides, primarily from law schools. A Web search, with GoogleYahoo! or another search engine, using terms like “research guide” OR pathfinder OR bibliography along with your subject (e.g., “environmental law”) will likely return a large number of potentially valuable resources (as well as some not so good ones). To limit the search, try adding the term “law library” and/or limiting the search to educational domain sites (“site:edu”) See also the list of Drake Law Library research guides.

3. Search law journal indexes for research guide articles. In Index to Legal Periodicals or LegalTrac, search by area of law with the subheading “bibliography” or area of law and keywords "research guide." For example, do a subject search for “Environmental Law – bibliography.” See separate Drake Law Library guide, Finding Law Review and Journal Articles, for more information.

Here is a selection of legal research guides available at the Drake Law Library:

Iowa-Specific Guides
Selected General Guides  Selected Specialized Guides
Prepared by Karen Wallace, Circulation/Reference Librarian
Last Revised: Aug. 2009, KW
Please feel free to e-mail author with suggestions on improving this guide. 

Last Modified: 8/28/2009 11:43:00 AM by David Hanson