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Basic Legal Research Guide: Getting Started

This Guide (formerly known as the First Year Legal Research Guide) tracks the Fall Basic Legal Research Course at Loyola University Chicago's School of Law

Legal Research in a Nutshell

The books in West's Nutshell Series provide succinct summaries of the law in a wide range of subjects. Legal Research in a Nutshell is a guide to the legal research process in general and to the specific sources used to research the law. A free companion website provides links to the online sources referenced in the Nutshell. This resource is part of the Law Library's "Academic Success" collection and is shelved on the 3rd floor. All of the books in the Nutshell series are also available electronically through West's "Academic Study Aids Subscription," which is available for LUC law students and faculty. By creating a free West Academic account (LUC law community only), it is possible to highlight text and take notes online. The document below contains instructions on accessing the "Academic Study Aids Subscription" and creating an account.

Academic Use Policies: Bloomberg Law, Lexis, and Westlaw

The Law Library pays for annual subscriptions to Bloomberg Law, Lexis, and Westlaw based on the number of enrolled law students. We are charged a discounted academic rate for this access. In return, Lexis and Westlaw place restrictions on the use of their accounts by law students. Generally, students can only use Lexis and Westlaw accounts for academic purposes, and NOT when working for law firms or other commercial employers. However, there are some exceptions. To find out about any exceptions, please contact our vendor representatives – contact information is available on the Law Library’s Student Services Guide.

There are no academic restrictions on use of your Loyola-issued Bloomberg Law account.

Basic Legal Research - Week One PowerPoint Presentation

Boolean/Terms & Connectors Searching Resources

Basic Legal Research Primer Video


The goal of legal research is usually to find primary authority (a case, statute, or administrative regulation) to support a legal argument. To perform legal research, you must learn how to use specialized resources to find these materials. 

During the Basic Legal Research course for first-year law students, you will be introduced to these specialized resources. You will learn how to find research resources both in print and online formats. You will also be introduced to electronic citation checking (a system for ensuring that your case has not been overruled or reversed) and will receive training on Westlaw, Lexis, and Bloomberg Law, the major commercial sources of online legal information. Finally, you will learn about research strategies, such as knowing how to get started, when it's best to use print, when it's best to use online resources, what to do if you hit a dead end, and how to know when your research is actually finished.

Registering at

CALI, the Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction, is a nonprofit consortium of U.S. law schools that offers nearly 1,000 online lessons on legal topics. The lessons are generally authored by law school faculty and law librarians. LUC Law School faculty and students may access CALI lessons with a password that is available at the Law Library's reference desk. There are also free downloadable eBooks available through CALI's eLangdell® Press.

List of CALI lessons

The Bluebook

The Bluebook is a style manual that contains the national citation rules most often used by U.S. law students, faculty, and federal courts. Originally published in 1926, and updated periodically to reflect new types of citations, the current edition is the 21st. The Bluebook is divided into Bluepages (a guide for citing authority in non-academic legal documents), Whitepages (a guide for citing authority in legal scholarship), and a series of tables. Where the Bluepages and local court rules are silent, defer to the Whitepages. See p. 1 in The Bluebook for further discussion of the applicability of the Bluepages and Whitepages. 

The popularity of The Bluebook among law students and legal professionals has resulted in a new term: Bluebooking. Bluebooking is the process of editing legal texts to ensure that assertions are supported by citations that conform to the rules in The Bluebook.

There are a number of copies of the current edition of The Bluebook on reserve in the Law Library for use in the Library. The Law Library also owns a number of books that provide guidance on how to use The Bluebook (see below for examples). Students may also purchase an individual online subscription to the 21st edition.

Subject Guide

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Patricia Scott
Director, Law Library & Clinical Professor of Law

Philip H. Corboy Law Center

25 E. Pearson St.

Chicago, IL 60611

(312) 915-8515

Introduction to Basic Legal Citation

Print Materials Scavenger Hunt

Answer these questions using the Print Resources Teaching Set:

Encyclopedia – AmJur  

Your friend is procrastinating on that paper, and they ask you to lock them in their room until they finish it. You agree to lock them in, and then you go to the library. When you return, your friend is angry about being locked in all day. Can they sue you for false imprisonment? 

Treatise – Corbin on Contracts 

Your professor is sick of forgetting their passwords. You hear them say, “Ugh, I’ll give a A to anyone who can teach me to use a password manager.” Your friend helps them get started with Dashlane. Should your friend still study for the final, or have they earned their A? 

Federal Statute 

When is Constitution Week this year? 

Federal Case Law  

The City of Chicago is planning a beach restoration project near the Lakeshore campus, and the school is wondering if there might be 5th amendment property rights involved. You know that Stop the Beach Renourishment, Inc. v Florida Department of Environmental Protection is about whether the takings clause applies to beach restoration, but that case was decided in 2010. What headnotes could you use to look up newer cases concerning similar issues? 

Federal Regulation 

By your third year of law school, you realized that you actually want to go back to your original dream of being an astronaut. What qualifications or training would you need to be on the crew of a space shuttle? 

IL Statute 

You decide to work off some stress by running around the track at Lake Shore Park. While you’re running, you notice that the park is dirty and could use some improvement – and it would be fun to volunteer with other law students. What kind of work could your new student organization, Loyola Friends of Lake Shore Park, do? 

Bonus: When did this law go into effect? 

Extra bonus: What’s wrong with the print materials we’re using here? 

Using a Digest 

You buy a new eye shadow palette, but after you use it, you have an allergic reaction. Do you have a case against the manufacturer?