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Legal Research: Home

A helpful guide to assist Faculty and Students in conducting legal research.

Welcome to my Legal Research Guide!

Welcome to my Legal Research Guide! Using this guide should enable you to locate legal materials. Do not become frustrated. Legal research is not complicated if you follow a few simple steps which I will outline in this guide. >If you have any questions or comments about this Guide please email me at Thanks!

Before You Start Searching

  1. Define your search! What question are you trying to answer? (You would be surprised how many people start their research without knowing what they are looking for.)
  2. Are you researching State or Federal Law? (State law regulates most of our day to day legal obligations, like traffic control. State law varies by State. Federal law controls other areas of our and the State's legal obligations, like interstate commerce. In some areas both Federal and State law apply, especially when it comes to our rights as citizens.
  3. If researching State Law make sure to limit you research to that particular State. State Law varies widely.
  4. Are you trying to locate a statue, a regulation or a court case opinion? Most of your research will fall into one of these three categories. (Regulations are passed by administrative bodies and authorized by law. An example would be Vehicle State inspection regulations. Such regulations are authorized by the State Legislature but actually written by the State's Dept of Motor Vehicles.)   

Initial Reseach

Initial Research

Have you been given a popular name of a law, the title of a recent court case or a legal citation? If so your research should be much easier. Both Nexis Uni and Westlaw provide you with tools which help you locate the above but also enable you to link to other sources which may discuss, explain or develop further the legal question which you are researching.

If on the other hand you were not given any of the above, just a legal question that needs to be researched, there is a wide variety of tools that you can use to start your legal research. The three that I use I have listed below.

1) Internet

2) Nexis Uni, Westlaw, Findlaw

3) Printed Legal Treatise

Using The Internet For Legal Research

I often begin my legal research using a Google Search. Internet search engines are a great way to locate the names of court cases, the popular names of laws and occasionally legal citations. Under no circumstances however will I use the information I find on the Internet to answer a legal research question unless the answer can be verified on Nexis Uni, Westlaw, or an official government website. I use the Internet as a starting point. It provides me with basic background information and often leads me to helpful information in order to develop my search. Very rarely however does a Google search enable me to answer a legal research question. 

Legal Treatises

Legal Treatises are books that are published on a particular legal topic. The library has many and it is always worthwhile to check the library's catalog for one of these books before you begin searching on Nexis Uni or Westlaw. I like Legal Treatises since they focus on only one area of law with great detail. If you plan to use a Legal Treatise please check to see when it was published and if it have been updated, usually by a pocket part in the back of the book. When conducting legal research you want to make sure that you do not miss any recent changes to the law.


A Little About Myself

My name is Patrick Wright. I have worked part-time as a Librarian at Bucks County Community College for 9 years. I also work at Rowan College of Burlington County. I have licenses to practice law in Pennsylvania and New Jersey and formerly worked as a law librarian. 

How To Contact Me!

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Patrick Wright

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Lexis/Nexis Academic/Westlaw/Findlaw

Nexis Uni is available on campus to all students at Bucks County Community College. Westlaw is only available to students currently enrolled in the College's Paralegal Program. Findlaw is available freely on the Internet. I find using any of the electronic databases much easier if I have a citation, popular name of a law, or a case name which is one of the reasons why I suggest a general Internet search when starting your research.