Researchers often use both primary and secondary resources when performing legal research. Primary resources are generated by government entities and include cases, statutes, and regulations. Secondary resources, like encyclopedias, treatises, dictionaries, hornbooks, and law review articles, describe or analyze the law.
Secondary sources are helpful to legal researchers because they provide background knowledge of a legal topic. They also help researchers learn legal terms and relevant language for crafting searches using online and print resources. They direct researchers to statutes, regulations, and cases that impact an area of law. New researchers or those researching a legal topic wholly unfamiliar to them should begin with a legal encyclopedia. After gaining some useful background on a legal issue, a researcher may look for more in-depth coverage of the issue in a treatise or law review article.
Note: As you progress through this class, you will be asked to choose examples of policy issues to use in your assignments. You will also select a policy issue for your Final Project. Keep in mind that you may want to select a broader policy issue for your Final Project and examine narrower policy issues for your weekly assignments.
To prepare for this assignment:
The assignment: (2–3 pages)
- Briefly describe a policy issue of interest to you.
- Identify three specific secondary resources that you think would be useful for researching the issue that you described and explain why.
- Explain how you might use the secondary resources that you identified to proceed to the next step of the legal research process. That is, explain how the secondary resources might help you identify the primary resources related to the issue that you selected. Be specific.
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