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The Legal Research Process with Free Resources

A guide for the public to learn how to perform general legal research.


Legal research is an incredibly complex area of research. This guide provides an overview of the necessary legal knowledge to begin searching and free legal resources to try out!

The Purpose of Legal Research

Legal research is the process of locating and retrieving sources to answer a legal question or to address an issue of law. Legal research requires a general understanding of the law and legal authorities. Legal research also requires an understanding of the type of sources and their varying purposes.

How to Start the Legal Research Process

A great method for starting legal research is to utilize secondary sources! Secondary sources explain the relevant laws in the topic area and also typically contain citations to the legal authorities. This is an efficient method of finding the correct law.

Secondary sources are typically classified by topic/subject and jurisdiction. The topic is the type of law that the source is focused on. These can be either broad or more specific to an area of a type of law. This is important for ensuring research is done in the correct area of law. The jurisdiction is crucial for determining the correct legal authority and the law that binds in the geographical area.

Whichever method you use, be sure it is the correct topic and jurisdiction!

Reformatted by C. Cassaday, 6/2023

Created by: Samantha Tartaglia 5/2023.

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