Research Guides

Successful Summer Strategies: Research in the Real World

Research in the Real World Starts Here:
Questions to ask when receiving a research assignment

Don't be afraid to ask questions when receiving an assignment. Although you may be reluctant to reveal that you don’t know much (if anything) about a topic, asking questions can save a huge amount of time later. Also, it may be difficult to track down a busy attorney when your questions arise, so try to obtain as much information as much as you can at the outset.

Among the important questions are:

  • When is the assignment due? Is it more or less urgent than other assignments you may have been given?
  • Does the assigning attorney want in-depth research or a quick overview? How much time is it reasonable to spend?
  • What is the expected work product? Does the assigning attorney expect an oral report, a research log or other report (some firms and attorneys have forms for these), a written memo, or something else?
  • Does the attorney expect you to check in periodically during the course of the project?
  • Are there terms of art or "buzz words" that are commonly used in the area of law; what do any acronyms the assigning attorney uses stand for?
  • Are there available resources I should consult such as knowledgeable people in the office, case or memorandum files, or key publications?

Verbally summarize the assignment before you leave the room, by saying words to the effect, "As I understand the assignment, I am going to ....... Is that what you are looking for?" It may also be a good idea to send a follow-up e-mail.

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