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LAW 120: Personal Law

This guide is designed to enable students to begin legal research in personal matters.

What is Presearch?

Presearch is a casual expression used amongst some librarians and other smart people to describe a process of preliminary fact-finding, questioning and answering, topic formation, and genuine exploration of a topic. 

Presearch may be necessary to:

  • Orient yourself with key terminology
  • Learn important names, events, etc. that are critical to the development of the phenomena in question
  • Ask secondary questions to deepen your understanding of a topic

The distinction between presearch and research is not necessarily a clear one, as many of the questions you pose and the sources you consult during presearch may very well wind up in your final research project. 

What Can I Use for Presearch?

Sources that are specific to a discipline are often very useful for presearch.

Subject Encyclopedias, such as the following, treat topics in one subject area, not a broad set of subjects like a general encyclopedia like Encyclopdia Britannica.

   West's encyclopedia of American Law (2nd floor) Reference Collection

   Encyclopedia of the American Constitution (2nd floor) Reference Collection

Subject encyclopedias may be fairly specific to one segment of a discipline, or one phenomenon, such as the following.

   Encyclopedia of White-Collar & Corporate Crime  (2nd floor) Reference Collection

   The International Law Dictionary (2nd floor) Reference Collection

Newspaper articles may also serve as a good starting point.  Such articles are written to plainly set forth information to general audiences.  This may be helpful to gain familiarity with the terminology and nuances of the topic. 



American Law Reports

American Law Reports (ALR) may be accessed through Westlaw Campus Research.

Searching ALR

 What is ALR?

Simply put, ALR serves like an encyclopedia for legal researchers.  Its annotations demonstrate the evolution of a concept, and offer relevant citations to cases from throughout the United States and secondary sources like law review articles.

To search ALR, simply select the American Law Reports limiter before searching.

See Me in Sutliff Hall!

Need Help with your Research?

For the Spring 2022 semester, I will be available for research consultations in the Sutliff Hall Center for Financial Analysis (SH 123).

Mar 4 - April 29


10:00 AM - 1:00 PM



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