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Getting Started with Legal Research: Getting Started

Getting Started with Legal Research

Legal research is the process of locating the necessary information to support legal decision-making.

Sources of legal information include primary and secondary authority.  

Primary authority is a statement of the law itself: Constitutions, statutes/laws/codes, administrative regulations, and court decisions. See Finding Laws & Cases section in this guide to locate print and online resources.

Secondary sources are materials that discuss and explain primary law.  They are useful as a starting point and provide footnotes and citations to primary sources.  Secondary sources include legal encyclopedias, dictionaries, and legal articles, among others.  

See Finding Articles section in this guide to locate print and online resources.

Our research guide, Finding General Legal Explanations and Definitions, provides an introduction to national, state, and international legal encyclopedias and legal dictionaries in the Law Library that offer general explanations and definitions of legal words and phrases.  

Other Research Guides on a variety of legal subjects are available on our website.

Also useful is the A-Z Legal Topics, an alphabetical list of legal topics with links and resources prepared by the Wisconsin State Law Library, as well as the Introduction to Law tutorial.

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