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The Research Process
Step #1: Preliminary Analysis & Secondary Sources
Step #2: Codified Law
Step #3: Binding Precedent
Step #4: Persuasive Precedent
STEP #1: Secondary Sources
Secondary sources are a good starting point, especially when you are researching a new area of law. They can help you develop search terms to find primary authorities and put your issues into context. Secondary sources will usually help you pinpoint the most important authorities on your issue.
Functions of Secondary Sources
Secondary Sources serve TWO primary functions:
- To help researchers find mandatory and persuasive primary authority on the legal issue they are researching
- To provide commentary on the primary authority for the legal issue you are researching
Limitations of Secondary Sources
There are a few limitations of secondary sources:
- Secondary sources may not include everything necessary for your analysis. Do NOT rely solely on the commentary found in a secondary source. Instead, read the primary sources it cites to determine if they are on point for your precise issue.
- Because the law changes rapidly, it is easy for a secondary source to become outdated. ALWAYS check the date of a secondary source and update the primary sources it cites to ensure they are still good law.