Research Guides

Successful Summer Strategies: Research in the Real World

General Tips for Researching Administrative Materials

Do Background Research

Use a government agency directory, treatise, or looseleaf service to gat an overview of the structure and sources of the area of law by:

  • Identifying the enabling act or other relevant legislation;
  • Determining what administrative agency or agencies (state, federal, and/or local) are involved in rulemaking and/or adjudication, and their relationship if more than one is involved; and
  • Identifying the types of pronouncements/documents the relevant agency or agencies issue.

Take Note Of Procedural Rules

Determine whether the relevant agency or agencies have their own sets of procedural rules that must be followed and whether these will play a role in your research.

Find Out What Published Sources Are Available

  • If there is a looseleaf service in the field, consult it early in the process.
  • If a relevant agency has its own official reporter, find out whether the hard copy format is available or whether it is on Lexis, Westlaw, or the Internet.
  • Treatises sometimes contain sections that reprint primary source materials.

Make Use Of Electronic Sources

Many print collections may not include extensive specialized materials (unless you are working at an agency itself), electronic sources are apt to be particularly useful in heavily regulated specialties:

  • Both Lexis and Westlaw have extensive specialized materials for various areas of law practice.
  • Use the Internet. Many federal and state agencies have extensive primary source materials on their web sites.

Update Thoroughly

Precise updating is especially important with administrative materials, which may change more frequently and more quickly than statutory or case law. Familiarize yourself with the sources for updating federal and state administrative materials.

Use Informal Sources

Be aware of the "informal" nature of much agency practice. Personal contact by telephone or e-mail with individuals involved in rulemaking or adjudicatory activity may be essential to obtaining complete and accurate information on the topic being researched. Many print or electronic sources of documents will provide names of contact persons whose help and advice may be invaluable.

For further information and tips on administrative research, consult the TMLL Guide to Legal Research, "Strategies for Researching Administrative Materials."

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