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Center for Co-op and Career Development (CCCD): Research and Writing

A guide to recommended books, databases, websites and more to help you with career planning, co-op preparation and professional advancement.


The process of researching follows the same general model no matter what jurisdiction you are practicing or working in. The differences are in terms of nomenclature and titles of specific primary and secondary resources.

Brand New Area of Law

Your issue will often comprise areas of law you have never studied. It is hard to really understand your issues without first understanding the broad brushstrokes. The best place to start is not necessarily case, statute or regulatory research - the best place to start is with a secondary source. They can range from Nutshells on large topics to very narrow multivolumed treatises on specific areas of law. Secondary sources are great because they (i) lay out the broader narrative of the topical area, (ii) give the elements for causes of action or legal processes, and (iii) lay out all the pertinent statutes, regulations and cases.

Good Working Knowledge of the Area of Law

When you have a good knowledge of an area of law, you will know most of the details, law and cases. This is when you need to trawl through the statutes, regulations and cases for law that can bolster your position. When searching on Westlaw or Lexis, always remember to limit your search to your jurisdiction. Remember to think about the terms you are searching for beforehand and consult a thesaurus. An index (in print or on WEXIS) is always the best place to start, as it will delineate the appropriate legal terminology. Statute and regulatory schemes have word indexes. Digests also have descriptive word indexes.

Legal Research Databases

The  link below provides you with a list of resorces available to you while on Coop.

Please be aware that there are certain restrictions on some of these.

For example, Lexis and Bloomerg are the only two of the major databases that can be used if you are in a law firm or corporate workplace.

Research Databases (available on Coop)

Free Legal Research Sources

Although there are many places one could find free legal information, the sources below seem to be the most reliable and intuitive.

  • FDsys
    FDsys provides free online access to official Federal Government publications.
  • National Archives and Records Administration
    The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) is the nation's record keeper.
  • Legal Information Institute -- Cornell Law
    Legal Information Institute is a small research, engineering, and editorial group housed at the Cornell Law School in Ithaca, NY. Their collaborators include publishers, legal scholars, computer scientists, government agencies, and other groups and individuals that promote open access to law, worldwide.
  • FindLaw
    FindLaw, a Thomson Reuters business, is the world's leading provider of online legal information and Internet marketing solutions for law firms.
  • The Public Law Library
    The Public Library of Law is the world’s largest online database of free law. It brings free materials from across the Web together in one place, and adds hundreds of volumes of law that has previously only been available with a subscription.
  • Google Scholar
    Google Scholar provides a simple way to broadly search for scholarly literature. From one place, you can search across many disciplines and sources: articles, theses, books, abstracts and court opinions, from academic publishers, professional societies, online repositories, universities and other web sites. Google Scholar helps you find relevant work across the world of scholarly research.
  • Justia
    Justia's mission is to advance the availability of legal resources for the benefit of society. They are focused on making primary legal materials and community resources free and easy to find on the Internet. The company provides Internet users with free case law, codes, regulations, legal articles and legal blog and twittterer databases, as well as additional community resources.

Writing Resources