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Legal Research
Villanova University School of Law
Hegadorn, Robert

Basic Legal Research OutlineFall 2008I. Authority:Primary authorities are the actual cases, statutes, and regulations that are issued by government entities in their official rule-making capacity, and which are generally cited in legal documents.Secondary authority explains and leads to primary authority.  Mandatory authority (or “binding” authority) is authority which the court must follow, while the courts may choose whether or not to follow persuasive authority.II. Secondary Sources/AuthorityA. Legal EncyclopediasGeneral legal encyclopedias, such as American Jurisprudence 2d (AMJUR) and Corpus Juris Secundum (CJS), provide general discussions of legal topics.  There are also legal encyclopedias for specific states.  It may be helpful to use legal encyclopedias at the very start of your search.Using a legal encyclopedia…Print1. use General Index to look up topics and find the Topic and Section numbers where discussion of those topics will be in the main volumes of the encyclopedia.2. then go to the Main Volumes – topics arranged alphabetically.3. Check the Pocket Part at back of topic volume to update/ read more recent information on topic.American Jurisprudence (AMJUR database) and Corpus Juris Secundum (CJS database) can be found on Westlaw. Both Lexis and Westlaw provide access to various state legal encyclopedias.  Westlaw provides cross references to legal encyclopedias via the RESULTS PLUS listings and via KeyCite. Cross references may also be found via sources such as the annotated codes.  B. American Law Reports annotations (ALR)American Law Reports (ALR) annotations provide overview of specific legal issues with numerous citations to cases.  They provide citations to cases by jurisdiction, and presents case summaries on both sides of the issue

DEX, not a full-text database.  Once you have the citation for the article you can find the article in the library by searching the library catalog for the TITLE OF THE JOURNAL.  Once you have the citation, you can retrieve the article using a full text database such as those listed below. 2. Full text databasesa) Look up citations on HeinOnline to get the full text of the article in .pdf format or ….b) Search in the full-text law review databases in Lexis or Westlaw (dates of coverage vary, only back to 1980s for most journals)Citations to law review articles may be found in secondary sources, annotated codes, citators, and legal periodical indexes such as Legaltrac, and the Index to Legal Periodicals.