Skip to Main Content

Legal Research

Comprehensive guide to answer legal research questions.

Getting Started

When given a legal problem to solve, stop to plan your research. This initial planning will keep you on track, organized and save a lot of stress overall.

When you are stuck, ask the Librarian for help. Librarians are trained to guide you to the answer so you can solve the problem with just a nudge in the right direction.


Profile Photo
Colleen Skinner
76 S. Laura Street, 18th Floor
Office 18-024
Jacksonville, Florida 32202

Getting Started

Print and fill out the attachment above for EACH ISSUE.


Getting Started Research Worksheet


Name ______________________________

1.   What are you trying to find?

What are some basic search terms to help your search?

What is the Legal issue?

[You should be able to write out your legal issue in one or two sentences.  You can come back and edit it as you get more information. Writing it down will help you think through terms, concepts, etc...]

2.   What information do you have about the problem?

            •   Jurisdiction? 

            •   Do you have any Citation leads?

                        •  Rules?  

                        •  Statutes?  

   •  Case(s)?     

                        •  Digest Topic & Key Number Information? 

3.  Think about the Type of sources that might be helpful

Starting with an Encyclopedia or Treatise can provide a good overview of the issues and provide statutes and cases and how they interrelate.

Where should you start?  What are the main legal encyclopedias? is there a state specific legal encyclopedia?

4.    Find the Secondary Sources.  Once you find the source, use the Index to find the applicable sections. What are “good” search terms? Review your search terms (step 1).  If you listed a rule or statute (step 2), check the Tables or Statutes sections to find specific discussion of that rule / statute.

Many encyclopedias and books have a Table of Statutes & Regulations and a Case Name Table as part of the index.  These tables will tell you where the statute, rule or cases are discussed in the encyclopedia.

            Encyclopedia Topic

            Encyclopedia Section

               Digest Topic: 

               Key Numbers: 

               A.L.R. article: 

Basic information                                                                                                               

Additional terms or related sections

5.   Identify the individual resources – cases, statutes – that are relevant to your research. 

In do this, you will need to READ the cases and decide what you might use them for (for the standard of review, to address a particular topic).  You need to read cases that both help and hurt your client and analyze them all.

Helpful Cases/Statutes/Rules                                                     

Damaging Cases/Statutes/Rules

6.    Find More Cases:  KeyCite/Shepardize:  

             Make sure it is still good law; 

(You should use a citator to determine how subsequent cases have “treated” the court’s reasoning or holding: Followed? Explained? Distinguished? Questioned?  And to find MORE cases.  These are great case-finding tools.   Note the citations that look interesting / worth investigating?  Remember you can search within the “citing references” for particular words, headnotes, topics, depth of treatment.)

7.  Review your Notes on the Cases and Statutes you have Read.  Edit your Legal Issue. Have you answered all the necessary questions?        

Please see a Librarian if you have any questions.