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  • InsideTrack
  • March 01, 2017

    Legal Research: Locating the Best Research Guides for Your Practice

    Want the most efficient path to expanding your legal expertise? Online law library research guides help you locate legal information quickly. Here’s what you need to know.

    Genevieve Zook

    businesswoman thinking with search bar on chalkboard

    March 1, 2017 – Law library research guides cover a wide variety of legal topics and can help you locate many of the resources you need in your legal practice.

    The online law library research guides have replaced print bibliographies. Historically, these guides were a path to reliable legal information for attorneys, law students, and legal professionals.

    Now they offer – beyond the traditional list of legal treatises, nutshells, or scholarly legal journals – links to databases, websites, legal apps, blogs posts, videos, and legal news feeds. All at your fingertips.

    These guides will help you locate:

    • local court rules;
    • legal forms;
    • court statistics;
    • that go-to book written by an expert in a field of law; and
    • more.

    As mobile legal pathfinders, they link to trusted subject-specific resources evaluated by professional law librarians.

    What is Offered in a Typical Law Library Guide?

    Here are examples of what you can find in a law library guide:

    Genevieve ZookGenevieve Zook is the reference & instructional services librarian at the U.W. Law Library. She is currently chair of the Public Relations Committee and past president of the Law Librarians Association of Wisconsin, a chapter of the American Association of Law Libraries.

    It’s now as convenient to browse the resources available from law libraries across the pond as it is to navigate local law library guides by the Wisconsin State Law Library, the U.W. Law Library, and Marquette University’s Law Library.

    Where to Locate Legal Research Guides

    These guides are a ubiquitous fixture on library home pages, which means you’ll find these guides anywhere there’s a law library. To find a guide, locate the law library’s home page and select the link for “Research Guides,” or use Google Advanced to search for guides on a legal topic.

    Here are tips on how to use Google Advanced to find a guide.

    Google Advanced allows you to refine your keyword search:

    • Select Google Advanced and a menu will appear

    • Select all these words: Enter your topic into this search box; for example, type “bioethics” and “library” to narrow your research

    • Select this exact phrase: Enter “research guide”

    • Select site or domain name: Enter .edu or, alternatively, enter .gov in the box for a domain name search strategy.

    Why “.gov” as part of your domain search is as useful “.edu:” Universities are not the only libraries creating pathfinders. If you use .gov in the domain search on Google Advanced, you can narrow your search to locate a government library’s research guide. The Wisconsin State Law Library is a .gov site; so is the Library of Congress, which provides useful guides on its website for researchers. (Note that the Library of Congress has a division site for Law Resources.)

    Legal Research Guides in Wisconsin

    • Wisconsin State Law Library
      In Wisconsin, one of the best resources for legal professionals is provided at the David T. Prosser Jr. State Law Library. The guides are located at the Wisconsin Law Library’s home page. To find a guide, go to the top of the home page and select "guide by topic" from the drop-down menu.

    • Wisconsin University Law Libraries
      Both major Wisconsin law schools have substantial legal collections and their law libraries provide research guides to their students, staff, and faculty. Although these guides are created for the campus communities, the general public has access to the guides and alumni are always welcome to use resources at the law libraries.

    • University of Wisconsin Law Library
      To locate the guides at the U.W., go to the law library’s website, select Research Guides, located on the lower left side of the screen. The guides are organized both alphabetically and by subject. In addition to subject-specific law guides, the U.W. Law Library has two productivity guides at their site that are popular with the legal community in Wisconsin:

    • Marquette University Eckstein Law Library
      To find the guides at the Eckstein Law Library, select Research Guides on the website to access a list of guides alphabetically. During tax season, browse the online resources tab on the Federal Income Tax guide to locate online federal tax resources.

    Library Research Guides Across the Country

    Both law and government libraries across the country offer research guides. Here are a few of the best sites to get you started on your research:

    A Few Limitations When Using Research Guides

    Legal treatises and journal articles typically aren’t available full-text online. However, law librarians can help you locate a print copy, or may provide you with a scanned copy of a book chapter for a fee.

    Some legal databases may have restricted access. However, for Wisconsin attorneys, the Wisconsin State Law Library provides remote access to its databases if you apply for a WSLL library card.

    Still Can’t Find It? Ask a Librarian

    If you can’t find a research guide on your topic, contact a law librarian and ask for help. Law librarians are always happy to assist you as you search for a guide on your topic.

    The Law Librarians Association of Wisconsin's Public Relations Committee coordinates regular contributions by its members to InsideTrack.




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