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!