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Legal Research Manual

This edition of Legal Research Manual builds on many previous editions. While the manual is designed principally for use with the first year legal research classes, upper year law students will also find it a useful reference.

Finding Legal Information Online

Because every search engine has its own search algorithm, which is rarely public, what search results come up first can appear haphazard.  Almost any search returns thousands of results. Without a clear search strategy, simply googling for legal information can be very time consuming and may not yield you the most reliable and current information.

Successful searching involves two key preparatory steps:

  1. Identify the main concepts in your topic and determine any synonyms, alternate spellings, or variant word forms for the concepts.
  2. Learn how different online search tools work.

While there is a lot of legal information on the web, only some of it is reliable or official. A Google search will uncover some legal materials, but lots of online legal information will only be accessible via smaller, specialized legal search engines that are not indexed directly by Google. The amount of legal material available online will also vary by jurisdiction. Sometimes, the best you will get from online searching will be to locate the existence and names of print legal sources, which you can then find either in your home library or through interlibrary loan.