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A Recommended Research Strategy
- Map out a tentative research plan that includes possible search terms and sources. Revise it as you learn more about your topic.
- Document what you've tried and record citations for any information found. SuperSearch and most databases allow you to save searches and results. You can also use a citation management database.
- Start with the big picture. Find a current, short introduction to your topic such as:
- A short introductory book or book chapter (can be located via the SuperSearch catalog; see the books tab in this guide for subject heading suggestions).
- Information from a blog or website from a reputable scholar, organization, or news outlet.
- An article (or segment thereof) that provides an overview (try SSRN for forthcoming articles; search for articles using SuperSearch or resources suggested on the articles tab of this guide).
- Use secondary sources to enhance your knowledge and to research sub-topics and legal issues you've identified as relevant. Options include:
- Law review articles, which provide in-depth analysis of narrow issues and contain footnotes that lead to primary sources (SSRN, Lexis, Westlaw, and the Index to Legal Periodicals will help with this; be mindful of whether you are searching an index or a full text source).
- Book chapters, especially in books where each chapter is an essay written by a distinct scholar (use SuperSearch or Google Scholar to find these).
- Research guides are a type of secondary source that will familiarize you with sources and strategies for a particular topic or country. Try these approaches to identify them:
- Run a Google search for <keywords representing your topic or jurisdiction> research guide (e.g. South Africa legal research guide or comparative criminal procedure research guide).
- Use one of the GlobaLex guides.
- Use one of the national guides available from the Library of Congress.
- Identify full text sources for the cases and legislation that are cited in the articles and books you've found. Have realistic expectations about what you'll be able to find translated into English. Take a look at a research guide about the country to identify available sources or talk to a librarian. You can use your Drake email account to email us a request for reference assistance. (PC/Mac/Android user link. iPhone/iPad user link
- Law review articles commonly analyze the significance of a single case or statute, so look for articles that explain how your case or statute impacts the legal landscape. If articles aren't available, try looking at news coverage for a more succinct summary of the law or case's importance.
- Consider interdisciplinary resources. For example, if you are examining the impact of religion or social mores on abortion rights in other countries, you will likely find useful information in databases that focus on religion or sociology as well as in legal databases.
- Research isn't linear. As you work through these steps, you'll likely discover additional sub-topics or legal issues you need to explore. Loop back through the process until you have examined all potentially relevant angles.
Books on International/Foreign Legal Research
Books on Academic Writing
Widely recommended books for law students writing papers are:
Academic Legal Writing: Law Review Articles, Student Notes, Seminar Papers, and Getting on Law Review by
Call Number: Law Library Reserve KF250 .V64 (older editions in stacks)
Volokh's broad coverage includes topic selection, organization, budgeting time, research, writing, citing, ethics, and more.
Drake University Law Library • 2604 Forest Ave. • Des Moines, Iowa 50311-3014