This guide is intended to support the work of the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law.
Before you begin your research assignment, be sure that you fully understand what is being asked of you. We recommend consulting the JUST ASK checklist of questions to ask when receiving a research assignment.
Jurisdiction – Do you need to look at federal law? If so, what circuit? State law? Administrative decisions? Some combination of the above?
Useful Tips – Does the assigning attorney have any suggestions for where to start? Are there any important experts, cases, documents, etc. that you need to know about?
Scope of Research - How much information does the attorney need? Is this an exhaustive search or just an overview? Ask for a deadline!
Terms of Art – Are there any key words or phrases that you need to know?
Acronyms – Clarify the spelling and meaning of any acronyms. Attorneys often use acronyms without realizing that people new to the field don’t know their meaning. Don’t be afraid to ask what an acronym stands for.
Sources – The assigning attorney is likely an expert in the field and knows of a “go-to” source in that area. Ask if there is a well-known treatise they recommend.
Key Cost Constraints – Are there any billing restrictions related to Lexis, Westlaw, document delivery services, etc.? How many hours should you spend on the project?
Start your research by consulting a few secondary sources (e.g., books, journal articles) to familiarize yourself with your topic and identify the relevant sources of law. Secondary sources provide substantive explanations of the law as well as citations to relevant primary law (i.e. statutes, regulations, and cases).
Research guides discuss how to conduct topical research and frequently include many recommended secondary sources. They are a great starting point and web-based reference. This MJC research guide has been designed to introduce you to the best resources we have and provide context and explanation of various aspects of your research, but you may need to consult other topical guides as your research progresses.
Start your search for books by using NUsearch, the library catalog for Northwestern University, to see what books we have available in the campus library system. If you need additional books or if you are looking for a particular title that we don't own, you can search for the item in WorldCat and submit an interlibrary loan (ILL) request for it. Ask a librarian if you need any assistance submitting an ILL request. Use this Finding Books guide for more explanation on using NUsearch and ILL.
Here are a few books to get you started:
Journal articles can be found through various subscription databases or in print using NUsearch, which includes the holdings of all NU libraries. Use the journal title search to see if we have access to a specific journal. Use this Finding Articles guide for more explanation on finding law and non-law articles.
Here are a few articles to get you started:
Ann Woolhandler & Michael Collins, Inmate Constitutional Claims and the Scienter Requirement, 98 Wash. U.L. Rev. 645 (2020)