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Legal Research: Getting Started

This guide will describe the basics of doing legal research at the URI Libraries.

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Basics of Legal Research

Legal research is very different from doing the usual literature search that is common in other disciplines.  But once you understand how it works, it's easy to do. This guide will help you navigate the sources and research methods.

Before you begin, here are some points to keep in mind when doing legal research:

  • Each legal resource documents a stage in the legal process.  To understand what you're reading, it's important to know what step in the process your source is covering.  The "Legal Process Timeline" section in this guide will help you.
  • Legal writing relies heavily on citation of other legal material and utilizes a citation "shorthand" method to convey this information.  The "Legal Citation" section will help you understand this method.
  • When using primary legal sources online, keep in mind that the legal profession often does not recognize the validity of an online source so when citing one, care must be taken to also cite the corresponding print version.  The "Using Nexis Uni" section will help you with this.
  • Online databases have made legal research fast and convenient but they can be bewildering and disorderly.  The "Using Nexis Uni" section will help you to navigate this particular database.
  • Finally, legal research can seem overwhelming to the novice.  If you need more help than this guide can offer you, please use the "Additional Research Help" section or contact me.

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Deborah Mongeau's picture
Deborah Mongeau
University Libraries

Public Services Department

phone: (401) 874-4610

Created and Updated by

D. Mongeau 3/11; Updated, A. Loffredio 5/13.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.