Legal Research Overview
Researching legal topics can seem overwhelming. The goal of this site is to make it a little easier. Please do not hesitate to contact one of us if you have questions.
Legal Research Basics
There are three types of law. You may need to deal with all three or just one or two. These are the types of law:
- Judicial: the rulings and decisions of court actions, as well as the rules that govern the courts. Example: Federal Reporter 3d (which reports Federal Courts of Appeals decisions)
- Legislative: the laws, codes, ordinances, and pending legislation that are used to govern. Example: Ohio Revised Code
- Administrative: the rules and regulations that pertain to administrative agencies and bodies. Example: Ohio Administrative Code
Just as there are three types of law, there are also three levels of "legal authority." Legal authority determines the weight or influence of a type of law. These levels of authority are:
- Primary authority: mandatory. A law or a regulation or a court decision is mandatory if everyone in that jurisdiction is required to follow it. For example, laws of the state of Ohio as codified in the Ohio Revised Code are primary authority because individuals in the state of Ohio are required to follow them.
- Secondary authority: persuasive only. Secondary authority sources explain and interpret the law or attempt to persuade the reader to a particular side of an argument , but do not carry the weight of the law itself. Examples of secondary authority include law review articles, legal encyclopedias and uniform statements of law. Also laws and court decisions which are primary and mandatory authority in one jurisdiction are only secondary and persuasive authority in other jurisdictions.
- Finding Tools: used to locate primary and secondary authority. The tool we most commonly use at Kent State to locate primary and secondary authority is LexisNexis Academic, though there are many other finding tools which are also extremely useful.