Summer Survival Guide

Created by Julie Krishnaswami and Lucie Olejnikova. Last updated 4/5/23.

If you have any questions, please visit the Get Research Help page.

Advanced Legal Research (Abbreviated)

  1. Clarify the Scope of the Assignment
    • Ask good questions, even after you've started researching.

  2. Take Notes on the Research (Process and Substance
    • Set time limits for researching. Everything will usually take longer than you estimate.
    • Work backwards from your date.
    • Stop researching when you see the same results using different methods, confirmed you're on the right track, and before you feel completely ready to stop.
    • Return to researching to fill in the holes in your research and writing.

  3. Start by searching broadly and then narrow logically by relevant facts (when you are new to a topic or area of law, too much may be better than too little). And don’t forget about the jurisdiction. You can often find jurisdiction-specific secondary sources.
    • Start by searching for legal concepts and narrow for relevant facts.
    • Don’t forget primary authority.  
    • Use Topic and Keynumbers and Headnotes.
    • Use the One Good Case Method.
    • Confirm your cases are still good law.

  4. Always be (Advanced) Googling (ABG):
    • For background, parties, news articles, statutes, judges.
    • Advanced Google Search
    • Site/domain Searching: magnet ban OR recall
    • AND OR make sure Boolean connectors are in all caps.
    • Search Tools to limit/arrange by date
    • Google for Research guide for your topic:
      • research guide medical cannabis OR marijuana state regulations
      • legal research guide irs “letter rulings”
    • Wikipedia:  Glass-Steagall Act  provides Public Law Number and background

  5. Talk to the Librarian: don’t waste time with unproductive searches.
    • Library Orientation? Vendor Training? Pricing and cost-effective strategies? Be sure you're understanding research costs and cost recovery.
    • Practice-Group Specific/Recommended Sources? Specialty Databases?
    • No Librarian? Ask your supervising attorney for her favorite sources. It may be on her shelf.
    • Reach out:,,

  6. Remember Cost Effective Techniques:
    • See ABG.
    • Get help early and often: vendors will give you search strings and appropriate databases.
    • Call the librarian, court/agency/vendor/organization/YLS Librarian.

  7. Start with the Right Secondary Source:

  8. Use the Document Management System if you have one:
    • Source for documents on similar topics. Can lead you to important cases, statues, regulations.
    • Locate materials written by your supervising attorney. Are there materials they frequently cite?

  9. Start with What You Know (you always know something):
    • Code Section  -> Public Law, Editors and Revisers Notes (changes to the code section), Committee Reports, Secondary Sources, Cases (Notes of Decisions, Citing References)
    • Name of Act -> Popular Names Table; Office of Law Revision Council (US Code, Popular Names Table)
    • Case Name -> One Good Case Method: Headnotes, Citing References, Cases Cited therein
    • Name of Doctrine or Theory -> Secondary Source
    • Regulation -> Cases, Source, Statutory Authority (enabling act)
    • Agency -> Enacted and pending regulations; Structure, Statutory Authority, Reports, Misc., Regulatory History Materials
    • Subject/Topic/Area -> Secondary Source, Legal Research Bundle, Research Guide

  10. Remember, Boolean Searching Basics and the Beauty of the Topic and Key Number System.
    • Grammatical Connectors: words within the same sentence or paragraph: use /s /p
      • Asylum /s fear /s persecution
      • Gang /p (violence or harm)
    • One Topic and Key Number in can lead you to cases in any/all jurisdictions. 
    • Use Advanced Search Fields
      • SY, DI = synopsis and digest fields for case law searching
      • Agency = agency field for regulatory materials (use acronym and full name)
      • PR, CA = preliminary and caption fields (use for statutory and regulatory materials)

  11. Don’t forget:
    • CRS Reports
    • Library of Congress Research Guides
    • Agency Websites
    • Federal / /
    • Using Google Scholar for Law Review Articles
    • Sources for 50 State Surveys: Lexis, Westlaw, National Conference of State Legislatures.
    • Court websites for rules
    • State legislative/ agency websites
    • Office of Law Revision Counsel -> Popular Names Table / USC Code (unannotated)
    • Legal Information Institute, Cornell LII: primary and secondary authority
    • YLS Library will mail / scan books and book chapters

  12. Greatest Hits or reliable, well-known secondary sources:
    • Topic Source
      Federal Civil Procedure

      Wright and Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure (WL)

      Moore's Federal Practice (Lexis)


      Antitrust Laws and Trade Regulation (Lexis)

      McCarthy on Trademarks and Unfair Competition (WL)

      Callmann on Unfair Competition, Trademarks & Monopolies (WL)

      Bankruptcy Collier on Bankruptcy (Lexis)
      Civil Rights

      Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Litigation: The Law of Section 1983 (W)

      Smolla, Federal Civil Rights Act (W)

      Constitutional Law

      Tribe, American Constitutional Law

      Chemerinsky, Constitutional Law: Principles and Policies

      Modern Constitutional Law (WL)

      Rotunda and Nowak, Treatise on Constitutional Law (WL)

      CRS, The Constitution of the United States: Analysis and Interpretation

      Copyright/Intellectual Property

      Nimmer on Copyright (Lexis)

      Patry on Copyright (WL)

      Milgram on Trade Secrets (Lexis)

      Criminal Law and Procedure

      Wharton's Criminal Law (WL)

      Rudenstein, Criminal Constitutional Law (Lexis)

      La Fave, Criminal Procedure (WL)

      Hall, Search and Seizure (Lexis)

      Fourth Amendment La Fave, Search & Seizure: A Treatise on the Fourth Amendment (WL)

      Weinstein's Federal Evidence (Lexis)

      Mueller, Evidence: Practice Under the Rules (WL)

      First Amendment Smolla and Nimmer on Freedom of Speech: A Treatise on the First Amendment (WL)
      Patents Chisum on Patents (Lexis)
      Statutory Construction Sutherland, Statutes and Statutory Construction (WL)

      Prosser and Keeton on the Law of Torts

      Dobbs on Law of Torts (WL)

      State Sources (selected)

      California: California Jurisprudence; Witkins California Practice

      Connecticut: Connecticut Practice Series

      Massachusetts: Massachusetts Practice Series

      New Jersey: New Jersey Practice Series

      New York: N.Y. Jurisprudence; New York Practice; Siegel's New York Practice

  14. Interdisciplinary Sources
    • Yale University Library Subject Guides for leading databases
    • Amicus briefs and similar filings
    • Congressional Hearings
    • HeinOnline collections (Women and the Law; Religion and the Law; Slavery in America)
    • JSTOR, Project Muse databases
    • ProQuest Dissertations and Thesis Full text
    • Social Science Full-text Database

  15. News Sources
    • Lexis/Westlaw/Bloomberg News and Legal News Databases
    • BNA Law Reports: topical subscriptions
    • ProQuest Historical Newspapers Database; ProQuest Alt-Press Watch
    • Factiva and Lexis Academic Database
    • Duke Reporters' Lab
    • Wall Street Journal and New York Times, YLS provides subscriptions

  16. Law Student Scholarship