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Basic Legal Research: Home

The resources shown below provide a general background for the novice legal researcher. WARNING: For use ONLY in the completion of academic assignments. NOT intended for use in actual legal controversies.

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Web Resources for Legal Research

Web Sites

Legal Research Methodology

  • Cornell University's Basics of Legal Research - This is a great link that explains, in a step-by-step process, the steps a legal researcher must take.
  • Andrew Zimmerman's Legal Research Guide - Not as "step-by-step" as Cornell's guide but still potentially useful. The good news is that this website provides a tremendous wealth of potentially valuable information.  Unfortunately though, some of these links have links to other resources that are not available to IUP students.  At the same time however, Zimmerman's guide provides a good explanation of many legal terms and concepts.
  • How to read a legal opinion Courtesy Orin S. Kerr (license) - I wish I had this resource when I was in paralegal school!

Court Structure

Databases Available to IUP Students and Faculty

Two databases of particular interest for legal researchers are LexisNexis and Legal Collection. (To gain access from home,  use your 16 digit I-card number.)

  • Lexis-Nexis / Academic Universe -- Provides access to a wide range of news, business, legal, and reference information allowing retrieval of documents that meet your specific research needs. When performing case law legal research, click on the "Legal" tab at the top of the page. And if possible, always make sure you Shepardize any cases you may think maybe of interest in order to insure the decision handed down is still good law.   Interface: LEXIS/NEXIS. Quick Guide to Finding Legal Cases.
  • Ebscohost Legal Collection -- Centered on the discipline of law and legal topics, this is a collection of respected, scholarly peer-reviewed publications including law journals, documents, and case studies. This database is an authoritative source for information on current issues, studies, thoughts and trends of the legal world. Legal Collection offers full text for more than 260 of the world's best law journals.  It is a subset of Academic Search Premier, Business Source Premier and Communication and Mass Media Complete.  



Legal Research Manual: a game plan for legal research and analysis - KF240 .W7 1988 - Probably the best book in the IUP collection for legal research beginners.

Handbook for Research in Media Law - KF241.C65 L66 2005 - By its title you'd think this book was useful only for media law, but it's not.  This book provides good explanations of laws, statutes, regulations and the differences that exist between them and case law.  In addition, it gives a good explanation of how to use LexisNexis legal research and case validation features.

Practical Legal Research: skills & strategies for the legal assistant - KF240 .W32 1995 - Whether or not you intend to become a paralegal, this is a good resource. 

Reference Works - Cannot be removed from the library

Legal Research In a Nutshell - [REF] KF240 .C54 1971 -  While this is a good resource, don't let the title fool you.  Legal research, when done correctly, is exhaustive.

How to Find the Law - [REF] KF240 .C538 1983 

Congressional Quarterly's Guide to the U.S. Supreme Court  - [REF] KF8742 .W567 1990

Black's Law Dictionary - [REF] KF156.B53 2004

Corpus Juris Secundum: a complete restatement of the entire American law as developed by all reported cases - [REF] KF154.C56

Federal Supplement - [REF] KF120 .F42

Federal Reporter - [REF] KF 105 .F432

Search for Books and/or Request Inter-Library Loans

  • The Libraries' book collection includes works that offer comprehensive treatments of historical topics. Use PILOT, our online catalog to find books in our collection as well as links to the full-text of electronic reserve  items and other valuable information on the Internet.
  • To search the catalogs of other Pennsylvania libraries, and to borrow from them directly, search PALCI  (log in using your 16-digit I-card number).

Citing What You Find

A guide to Basic Legal Citation courtesy of Peter Martin, Cornell University.  

The authoratative source for citing legal cases, statutes, laws etc, The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation  KF245 .B58 and [REF] KF245.B58 is available at the Stapleton Library.

The following links are provided courtesy of Purdue University.

A guide to the Chicago/Turabian style of citation.

A guide to the APA style of citation.

A guide to the MLA style of citation.

A guide to citing electronic sources.


Questions or Comments?

Questions or comments concerning this page should be directed to Theresa McDevitt. Correspondence regarding this site should be sent to its maintainer, Ed Zimmerman, Last updated on 5.5.11.

Public Services Librarian

Blaine Knupp
102 B Stapleton Library

Indiana University of PA

Indiana, PA 15705


Guide Creator

Guide originally created by Richard Louis.