You may contact Jenny Rensler, the course liaison, for research-related questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This guide is directed to provide the student attorney in Maryland with a starting point for academic and practice-oriented legal research, with special emphasis on the area of criminal law reform, theory and practice.
With any project, unless you are already knowledgeable about the topic area, it's best to start with secondary sources and then to consult primary sources. Secondary sources such as handbooks, guides, and manuals, as well as sample forms and other practice materials, provide an attorney with rules and guidelines for law practice within certain jurisdictions. Articles and books can provide you with an overview of your topic and help you think of search terms you might not have thought of otherwise. They also cite primary authorities such as statutes and cases. You can use the primary sources cited in secondary sources as a jumping off point to find other primary sources in several ways:
The two main indexes to law journals are LegalTrac and Index to Legal Periodicals & Books (which includes books as well). These indexes include references to many journals not included in Westlaw or Lexis databases and in some cases provide access to the full text electronically. Each of these two online indexes has a parallel print version: the Current Law Index (K33 .C87) and the Index to Legal Periodicals (K9 .N32) are shelved near the print journals on level 1. The Index to Legal Periodicals is particularly helpful if you need to find articles published prior to 1980.
Most print journals are shelved on level 1 of the library, in alphabetical order by journal title. To find out if the library has a particular journal title in electronic format, first check the Library's list of journals online or ask a librarian for help.
One notable exception is BNA's Criminal Law Reporter, which is shelved at KF9615 .C7 on level 2. The Criminal Law Reporter is a weekly newsletter which is useful for keeping up with recent developments in the law, indexed by Capital Punishment and other topics. It can also be useful for coming up with paper topics. Select criminal law-related journals available at the library in print and online are listed under "Databases, Journals" below. Keep in mind that articles on appellate topics often appear in general law reviews, such as the Cornell Law Review.
While most general law reviews publish articles on topic, there are a number that focus specifically on the topic covered by your course:
Handbooks, guides, manuals, sample forms and other secondary materials provide an overview of criminal law. The following is a brief list of some secondary practice materials available in the Thurgood Marshall Law Library. For additional practice materials, please check the library's Catalog, as well as Lexis and Westlaw.
For general information on finding and updating case law, see Chapter 7 of the Thurgood Marshall Law Library Guide to Legal Research.
Note: Free databases do not include cases dating back as far as the materials in Lexis and Westlaw databases. It is not recommended that you use free case law databases in your research.
Tip: If you find one good case on Lexis, you may be able to find others by identifying the headnote that best describes the issue of interest to you, then clicking "More Like This Headnote," or by Shepardizing the case to find other cases that have cited it for the issue represented by that headnote.
Tip: If you find one good case on Westlaw, you may be able to find others by identifying the headnote that best describes the issue of interest to you, then clicking "Most Cited Cases" for that headnote. You could also try clicking "KeyCite Notes" to find other cases that have cited your good case for issue represented by that headnote.
Statutes relating to criminal law and procedure exist at both the federal and state levels.
Some useful electronic sources of statutory and legislative materials are linked below. For more information on federal legislative research, including federal legislative history, see Chapter 5 and Chapter 10 of the Thurgood Marshall Law Library Guide to Legal Research. For more information on state legislative research, including Maryland legislative history, see Chapter 9 of the Thurgood Marshall Law Library Guide to Legal Research.