Saturday, September 24, 2005

Research Tip: Start Small

One of the most important steps you take in any research project is deciding where to start. To save time and money, you should start with the smallest or most specific resource available. For example, if you are looking for Illinois statutes, search a LexisNexis source or Westlaw database of the Illinois Compiled Statutes; use one of the Illinois statutory codes, which only include Illinois statutes, in print; or search the Illinois Compiled Statutes on the Illinois General Assembly website. If you start in a more general resource, you will waste time going through search results that include a lot of information you don't need.

Choosing the right place to start your research is especially important if you are using an online service like Westlaw or LexisNexis, because starting in the wrong place can waste your client's money as well as your time. Larger databases, such as combination databases that include statutes from many jurisdictions, are frequently billed at a much higher rate than smaller databases.

Finally, there are special considerations when doing research on the web. Using a general search engine to search the web for statutes would likely retrieve hundreds or even thousands of documents, and most of them would not even be statutes. More importantly, before you rely upon legal information you find on the web, you need to be sure that it is accurate and reliable. One way to save time retrieving statutes on the web, and to be sure they are accurate and reliable, is to retrieve them from an authoritative site such as a government web site.

Archive of Research Tips.

No comments: