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Introduction to Legal Research

Series of presentations to teach the fundamentals of legal research.


The goal of legal research is to find all of the authority that applies to the answering the legal issues presented in the legal problem.  Researchers find this authority in a multitude of resources.  Plus, researchers need to find binding authority.  Researchers create three documents during the research process: Research Plan, Research Log, and Research Product.  Research plans enable a researcher to identify the issues, jurisdiction, authority, and key facts in a problem so  to create a strategy of checking resources to find relevant authority.  Research logs are used to track research findings.  A good research log contains information about the resource used, the searches conducted, the currency or validity of the findings and the findings themselves.  Research products are the distillation of the research to answer the legal issues presented.  Research products include memos, letters, emails and conversations with the assigning attorney or client.

Learning Objectives

Researchers should know the following about Research Analysis and Planning (RAP).

  • RAP is the process of using legal analysis and research analysis to develop and implement a plan to locate all of the authority that is relevant to the research problem presented
  • There are three documents created during the research process: Research Plan, Research Log, and Research Product
  • The research plan consists of two parts.  In Part I, researchers identify the issues, key facts, jurisdiction and areas of law.  In Part II, researchers develop a step-by-step strategy identify each resource needing to be checked that will help lead the researcher to finding all authority for the legal problem.
  • The research log is an annotated resource strategy developed in the research plan.  It indicates what resources were checked, when, what was found and whether the law is valid.  
  • The research product is a memo, brief, letter, or some other product in which the research is used to provide a legal answer.

Additional Resources

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