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Constitutional Law Seminar: Primary Sources

This guide is intended to assist students conduct research relevant to their work in the Constitutional Law Seminar. Additional materials are available; please stop by the reference desk or make an appointment with a librarian for further assistance.

About Primary Sources

Primary sources are laws, orders, decisions, or regulations issued by a governmental entity or official, such as a court, legislature, or executive agency; the President; or a state governor. Examples of primary sources include court decisions, statutes, and constitutions. In appellate advocacy, the primary law includes any relevant federal and state court rules, statutes, and case law.

The Federal Court System

Finding Federal Case Law

  • Read the cases you have for references to other cases (the “one good case” method)
  • Retrieve a known case using the name or citation
  • Use secondary sources or annotated statutes
  • Search by subject using the digest system
  • Run full-text keyword searches to find cases on important issues or cases with fact patterns similar to yours
  • Use headnotes to find cases dealing with a particular issue of law
  • Shepardize, Keycite, and BCite the case to make sure that it is good law and to lead you to additional cases

Federal Case Law Reporters




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