Research Guides

Successful Summer Strategies: Research in the Real World

Research in the Real World Starts Here:
Tips for cost effective research

  • Make a research plan before plunging into primary sources.
  • Do background reading in secondary sources; write down key terms for index and electronic searching.
  • Start with any known citations to authority and use them as entry points by locating them, reading them, consulting useful annotations or cross-references, and Shepardizing or Keyciting them.
  • Know how to use print resources and use them when appropriate.
  • Know when you can use the general Internet (as opposed to Lexis and Westlaw) for legal information. For some guidelines on this topic consult the TMLL Guide to Legal Research "Strategies for Internet Research" and The Virtual Chase.
  • Find out whether photocopying, interlibrary loan, and related services are billed to clients before using such services.
  • Make sure you understand your employer's billing arrangement with Lexis and Westlaw.
  • Use cost effective techniques on Lexis and Westlaw such as planning alternative searches before logging on; choosing the smallest appropriate database; using Find or Get a Document for a known citation instead of running a search; taking advantage of Locate and Focus to narrow broad searches; using segment and field searching; and using the History and Research Trail functions to return to prior searches instead of re-running them.
  • Don't spend a lot of time on one source or approach if you aren't getting results. Know how to vary your strategy if your first plan isn't fruitful.
  • If you are bogged down or confused about the path your research is taking, check in with your assigning attorney for clarification. It's better to ask than to spend hours on the wrong track.

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