Monthly Archives: March 2014

Research tip #5: Know when to stop


At some point in any research project you will need to stop researching and get to work synthesizing all of the information you have found.  Knowing when to stop can be difficult, however, and many researchers worry that by concluding their searching they may miss some key article or case.  Here are some tips for knowing when to stop:


  • You are seeing the same search results over and over – you have searched multiple resources and used a variety of search terms, but you are repeatedly seeing the same documents and citations.  This is a good sign that you have conducted a thorough search and no longer need to keep looking.
  • You are investing more in your research than you are getting in return – at some point it will cost you more time and/or money to continue researching than the results you are getting are worth.  Conduct a cost/benefit analysis and consider whether continuing to research is worth the time it will take or the money it will cost.  This rule is especially pertinent when your project deadline is approaching – you want to make sure you give yourself enough time to write the paper or memo you conducted the research for in the first place.
  • You feel comfortable that you have found the answer – sometimes you find the materials you need quickly, but be sure to check your resources to ensure they are still good law.

For more advice on knowing when to stop researching, read through the article “Terminating Research” by Christina Kunz.

This is the last post in our Research Tip Series.  The library staff wishes you the best as you move forward with your legal research and writing this semester.  If you need any help with your research please feel free to Ask a Librarian or make an individual research appointment – we would love to help you!

Research tip #4: Capitalize on the knowledge of experts

Starting your research with secondary sources will save you a lot of time – instead of you spending hours first searching for the cases, statutes, and regulations relevant to your topic, and then toiling to decipher overarching legal principles from those laws, by cracking open a relevant secondary source you will often find citations to the core primary sources for your topic as well as clear explanations and expert analysis of the issue(s).  Which secondary source you choose will depend on your research needs.  To quickly learn about an unfamiliar area of law and get guidance from legal experts on your topic, we recommend practice materials.

What are practice materials?
Practice materials are publications written by legal practitioners for use by other practitioners.  They are often authored by attorneys who are experts in their field, and provide authoritative guidance on the practice of law in a specific area.  As their name implies, practice materials are very practical – they generally take a “brass tacks” approach to legal issues with a focus on real world legal problems.  Often these publications also include sample forms, checklists, and illustrations based on real cases.

Finding relevant practice materials
You can identify practice materials relevant to your topic by consulting the Ross-Blakley Law Library’s Arizona Practice Materials and General/Federal Practice Materials research guides for a listing of practice materials available through the Library.

You can also search the ASU Libraries Catalog for other practice materials.

To find sample forms, check out the Law Library’s research guides on Arizona Legal Forms and General/Federal Legal Forms and consider consulting one of the following multi-volume resources:

Research tip #3: Administrative law for all!

While statutory law and case law get plenty of attention in legal research and writing, the third area of law, administrative or regulatory law, is often overlooked.  It is just as binding as case and statutory law, however, and thus just as important; conducting research in this area of law is essential for any legal research project.

About administrative law
Administrative law is composed of the rules and regulations created and enforced by administrative agencies. The primary sources for federal administrative rulemaking are the Federal Register (FR) and Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). Final rules and regulations of federal agencies are first published in the FR, which comes out each business day, except federal holidays. They are later published in the CFR, which is a subject compilation of the rules and regulations in effect at the time of its publication.

Finding administrative law
The Federal Register is available for free on the U.S. Government and Printing Office Federal Digital System (FDsys) website (1994-current).  It is also available on HeinOnline (1936-current), WestlawNext, Lexis Advance, and Bloomberg Law.

  • Pursuant to the Administrative Procedure Act, federal agencies must publish notice of proposed rulemaking in the Federal Register and provide a period of time for public comments before a final rule is published.  Thus, the FR includes both proposed and final rules, and summaries of comments received can be found published with the final rule.

The Code of Federal Regulations is also freely accessible on the FDsys website (1996-current).  The U.S. Government and Printing Office also offers the e-CFR, which although unofficial, is the most current resource for federal regulations.  In addition, HeinOnline (1938-current), WestlawNext, Lexis Advance, and Bloomberg Law all have the CFR available.

Other administrative law resources
For in-depth information on finding regulations, as well as keeping your administrative law research current, check out the Ross-Blakley Law Library’s Federal Regulations Research Guide.  The Georgetown Law Library also offers an excellent Administrative Law Research Tutorial.  Finally, for a listing of federal agencies and their contact information consult the United States Government Manual in print in the Law Library or electronically on the GPO website.

Research Tip #2: Stay current on your topic

It is important to keep abreast of changes in the legal world that pertain to your paper topic; statutes are amended, new cases are decided, and novel issues arise, all which can affect the validity of your research.  Below we have provided information on three legal news sources you can utilize to stay up-to-date on your topic, as well as linked to two research guides that detail other legal current awareness resources.

BNA reports
BNA is a subscription resource for legal and business news that provides daily reports as well as topical libraries that cover the full range of legal practice areas.  BNA content includes primary and secondary resources as well as company and market information; it is an excellent resource for information on current legislative, administrative, and judicial developments.  BNA resources are available through the Law Library’s website as well as on Bloomberg Law.  You can also receive BNA updates via e-mail.

Law 360 is also a continually updated subscription source for legal news, and is now available on Lexis Advance.  Content includes daily news across 37 practice areas, in-depth topical analysis by legal practitioners, and real-time tracking and reports on over 10,000 companies. You can set up alerts in Law360 and have information on developments in the area of law you are interested in delivered to you via email – Lexis offers an informational video on how to set up alerts in Law360.

News in WestlawNext
WestlawNext offers access to legal news through its News page, which contains information from newspapers, magazine, journals, television, and radio transcripts.  To have news content delivered to your e-mail simply set up an alert – Westlaw offers information on how to set up alerts in WestlawNext.

Current Awareness Tools Research Guide – Ross-Blakley Law Library, Arizona State University

Resources for Staying Current Research Guide – Gallagher Law Library, University of Washington

Research Tip Series – Tip #1: Conduct a pre-emption check

We know that it is the time of the semester in which many 2L and 3L students are working on research papers and 1L students are preparing memos for their Legal Research & Writing class, so over the next week we will be providing research tips on the Law Library blog.

Research Tip #1: Conduct a pre-emption check
Before starting to write on your chosen topic you need to determine whether that topic has already been covered, or preempted, by another author. If your topic has not been addressed you can safely pursue your research and writing. If your topic has been addressed you may still be able to pursue it, if you concentrate on a different aspect of the topic or present a new perspective.

Steps for conducting a thorough preemption check
When conducting a preemption check you need to search for articles on your topic using a variety of resources, including full-text databases, indexes to legal journal articles, and working papers depositories. If your topic is interdisciplinary you should also check indexes to journal articles in other subjects. Starting with a list of terms on your topic will be helpful as you conduct your preemption check – consider the subjects your topic may be categorized under and any synonyms for terms on your list. As you search the various resources listed below, be sure to keep track of where you have searched, the search queries you made, and your search results. This will help you avoid duplicate searching and ensure that you did a thorough preemption check.

Full-Text Article Databases
Full-text databases contain the entire text of articles and thus allow you to search every word in an article.

  • WestlawNext
  • Lexis Advance
  • HeinOnline: HeinOnline has about 1,600 journals in its law journal library and unlike Westlaw and LexisNexis has coverage beginning with the first issue published.   All articles in HeinOnline are available in their original format in pdf.

Indexes to Legal Journal Articles
An index is a database of article citations arranged by subject. When searching in an index you are led to citations of relevant articles, and you then use those citations to locate the full-text of the article.

  • LegalTrac: LegalTrac provides citations to articles from 1980 to the present from over 1,500 legal journals, magazines, and newspapers.
  • Index to Legal Periodicals Retrospective: The Index to Legal Periodicals Retrospective contains citations to articles from over 750 legal periodicals published between 1908 and 1981.
  • Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals: The Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals contains articles published from 1985 to the present which focus on international, comparative, or foreign law topics, or are written in other languages.

Resources for Multidisciplinary Journal Articles

  • Academic Search Premier: Academic Search Premier indexes over 8,500 journals from 1975 to the present and covers most areas of academic study.
  • JSTOR: JSTOR is a full-text archive of over 1,000 academic journals in the humanities, social sciences, and sciences.
  • Google Scholar: Google Scholar allows you to search scholarly articles and books in all disciplines, and offers an “alert” options to have results delivered to your e-mail.

Working Papers Depositories
Working papers depositories house research papers in development.

Ask Your Law Librarians!
If you cannot locate the above sources or if you would like a demonstration on how to use them, stop by the reference office or email a reference librarian. If you need advice on how to proceed with your research, please make an appointment with a reference librarian.  We are here to help you!

Finally, here is a handy preemption checklist developed by Melanie Knapp, the Head of Reference and Instructional Services at George Mason University Law Library, to help you keep track of the sources you have searched.

Spring Break Library Hours

The Law Library will be open during Spring Break.  Have a fun and safe break!

Spring Break: March 7 – 16, 2014

  • Friday, March 7,  7:00 am –  5:00 pm
  • Saturday, March 8,  8:00 am –  5:00 pm
  • Sunday, March 9,  8:00 am –  8:00 pm
  • Monday – Thursday, March 10 – 13,  8:00 am –  8:00 pm
  • Friday, March 14,  8:00 am –  5:00 pm
  • Saturday, March 15,  8:00 am –  5:00 pm
  • Sunday, March 16,  8:00 am –  11:00 pm



National Grammar Day

The importance of good grammar, particularly for legal practitioners, cannot be emphasized enough.  Good grammar is the foundation of good writing, and good writing is essential to both high achievement in law school and success in legal practice.   With that in mind (and in celebration of National Grammar Day today) we have provided a few resources below which you can use to increase your grammatical mastery.  Since words are the tools of the legal profession, time spent brushing up on your grammar is never wasted.


  • Professor Tamara Herrera’s “Legal Writing” column in the monthly Maricopa Lawyer
    Every month Professor Herrera provides insightful and useful writing advice in her “Legal Writing” column for the Maricopa Lawyer.  Recent topics include the correct use of commonly misused words such as “but” and “they,” fixing little ambiguities in your writing, and properly using pronouns.  You can read Professor Herrera’s articles on the website of the Maricopa County Bar Association.
  • Bryan Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day
    Bryan Garner, the editor in chief of Black’s Law Dictionary and the author of many leading books on English usage and legal style, including Garner’s Modern American Usage, is known as an authority on good legal writing.  Garner authors the Usage Tip of the Day on the LawProse blog, through which he provides daily insight on the correct use of words and other grammatical topics. You can receive these tips in your e-mail by subscribing to the blog or by signing up through the Oxford University Press website.

We hope those of you writing seminar and graduation papers this semester find these resources valuable, as well as those producing legal memoranda, court documents, and other written work through externships and other job opportunities.

Deadline Approaching: Ross-Blakley Law Library Award for Exemplary Student Research

Do you want to win $500?  How about $250?  Would you like to have your work displayed in the Faculty Publications Display Case?  How about all the pats on the back you will get from family and friends if you win this prestigious award?  You better get to work!  The deadline to enter the annual Ross-Blakley Law Library Award for Exemplary Student Research is April 1st.

The purpose of the award is to encourage students to focus on practical skills and to refine their research skills beyond ordinary proficiency to their personal best.  The award also serves as a means to showcase extraordinary student research.

Two award recipients will be selected.  The first place winner will receive $500.00 and a Certificate of Recognition.  The second place winner will receive  $250.00 and a Certificate of Recognition. Winners will be invited to publish their paper in the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law Faculty Scholarship Repository and winners are further invited to showcase their writing in the Faculty Scholarship Display case located in the Law Library lobby for public exhibition during the year following receipt of the award.

A panel composed of two Law Librarians and one Legal Writing Instructor will judge submissions based on how well they demonstrate the following:

  • Sophistication, originality, or unusual depth or breadth in the use of research materials,      including, but not limited to, print resources, electronic search engines      and databases, primary and secondary legal resources, interdisciplinary      resources, and empirical resources
  • Exceptional innovation in research strategy, including the ability to locate, select,      and evaluate research materials with discretion
  • Skillful synthesis of research results into a comprehensive scholarly analysis

To learn more about the award including eligibility, acceptable papers, selection criteria and application procedures, please visit:

Ross-Blakley Law Library Award for Exemplary Student Research

The deadline for submission is April 1, 2014.

And remember, if you need help with your research, don’t forget to Ask a Librarian.

Good Luck!