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First-Year Student Research & Study Guide: Legal Research Basics

A guide to help UC Hastings law students successfully manage their first year courses and legal research assignments.

Legal Research Basics

In your first-year Legal, Writing & Research (LW&R) classes your instructors will go into great detail about how to do legal research.  They will cover all of the basics of legal research.  Learning these basic skills is important for completing your LW&R memorandums and briefs.  But more importantly, these skills are the basic building blocks for success in law school and for a successful career in law. 

Students are encouraged to consult with a reference librarian for advice in planning their library research, for learning what library services may be useful to them, locating periodical articles and books on particular subjects, helping to identify unfamiliar citations and references, and using the variety of research tools and computer services available in the library.  Students can also submit online reference questions.  Additionally, the reference staff publishes a number of research guides (California Law, International Law, State & Local Government Law, Tax Law) to assist students with legal and library research. The library has also created an online reference collection with links to commonly-used legal reference materials such as dictionaries, encyclopedias, and treatises.

To learn about the basic legal resources available in print you might want to go to the Photographic Field Guide to the Law Library. Adam Engelhart, a recent Hastings Alumnus, created a nice webpage with pictures of all of the "principal legal reference works used for basic legal research, along with short descriptions and Bluebook citation rules. And of course you can always ask for assistance at the Reference Desk; . The Hastings Law Librarians have experience using these law books, and would be happy to show you the resources we have in print.

We have posted library maps online showing details of the 4th & 5th floor collections.

A Photographic Field Guide to the Law Library
by Hastings Alum Adam Engelhart
A Concise Guide to Legal Research and Writing
by Deborah E. Bouchoux  /  KF240.B678 2011 (5th stacks)
Finding the Law
by Robert Berring and Elizabeth Edinge  /  KF240.H61 2005 (Course Reserve)
Foundations of Legal Research and Writing
by Carol M. Bast and Margie Hawkins  /  KF240.B28 2006 (5th stacks)
Fundamentals of Legal Research
by Roy Mersky and Donald Dunn  /  KF240.J34 2002 (Course Reserve)
Guide to Legal Research and Writing from the Transnational Perspective
by Francis A. Gabor  /  K85.G33 2008 (5th stacks)
Handy All-Purpose Search Form
Use this form to create better online searches.  Advanced searching using terms and connectors is the most powerful and precise way to search Lexis and Westlaw. Using the techniques shown on this simple form allows you to take full advantage of the powerful search engines built in to these systems.  The Handy All-Purpose Search Form takes you step-by-step through the process of creating a search on both Westlaw and Lexis.
Legal Research in a Nutshell
KF240.C55 2010 (Circulation Desk)

Additional Resources:
The Library's Study Guides webpage lists additional useful Legal Research and Writing books.