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Legal Research Term Project

This guide serves as a starting point to begin research for the 1303 Legal Research Term Project. Research can be completed using either print or electronic resources, and tips are provided below for each method.

Be sure to check with your professor to see whether they require print or electronic sources.

Examples of the completed term project are available on Reserve in the Library. Ask at the Circulation Desk on the 2nd floor of the Library to check these out for 2 hours use in the Library.

Please Note: Only students currently registered in paralegal classes with Lone Star have access to the legal database Westlaw.

Descriptive Words select to expand list

 

Assignment:
Descriptive Words List as many descriptive words or phrases as you can that relate to your topic. Copy that page from the descriptive word index of the Texas Digest that relates to the topic you chose.

 

Print

Texas Digest Descriptive Word Index volumes

 

Texas Digest 2d, Descriptive Word Index

A digest is an index to case law. It helps you locate cases and provides case citations and summaries of cases discussing particular legal points. Texas Digest is a digest series covering Texas cases. Digests have two main parts: the Descriptive Word Index and the main volumes. The topics are broken down into key numbers, which narrow broad topics down to very specific points of law. The Descriptive Word Index is used to locate your topic and give you a key number that you can use to find your topic in the rest of the digest volumes.

To find the Descriptive Words: 

  1. Locate the Texas Digest Descriptive Word Index and look up your chosen topic (ex- Arson) alphabetically.
  2. Under the heading for your topic, you should see a list of the descriptive words for your selected topic. (It will also give you the key numbers that you will need in a later step in this project.)

Important: be sure to also check for a pocket part or paperback supplement to get the most current information!

 

Electronic

Although published by West, the Texas Digest is only available in print. The closest online equivalent is Westlaw's topic and key number system, which lets you click on a key number in Westlaw and takes you to a page with cases related to that key number. For the purposes of this term project, however, you will typically need to use the print series.

Statutory Law select to expand list 

 
Assignment:
Statutory Law Copy appropriate law from Texas Penal Code. In order to get full credit for this section, you MUST include the pocket part!

 

The laws for Texas are published as statutes. The official statutes for Texas are published in Vernon's Texas Statutes and Codes Annotated. Vernon's is available both in print in the LSC-North Harris Library and in full-text on Westlaw.

Print

Vernon's Texas Codes Annotated Penal Code volumes

 

 Vernon's Texas Codes Annotated

To find your topic in the Texas Penal Code

  1. Locate the Penal Code volumes of Vernon's Texas Codes Annotated.
  2. At the back of the last volume of each section of code, there is an index for that code. Use the index to look up your topic and find the relevant section number. 

Important: be sure to also check for pocket parts to get the most current information!

 

Electronic

Vernon's Texas Codes Annotated  is available full-text in Westlaw. 

To find your topic in the Penal Code:

  1. On the Westlaw homepage, under "Browse" and "All Content," click on Statutes & Court Rules in the first column.
  2. Choose Texas from the State list.
  3. Select the Penal Code from the section list for Texas Statutes & Court Rules
  4. The search box at the top should now be limited to the Texas Penal Code. You can either continue browsing to the section for your topic, or search for your topic using the search box at the top of the page.

Texas Jurisprudence & American Jurisprudence select to expand list

 

Assignment:
Texas Jurisprudence & American Jurisprudence Choose a section from both Tex Jur and Am Jur that relate to your topic and include it. Choose one case from either Tex Jur or Am Jur and write a two page summary of that case using the IRAC format.

 

Legal encyclopedias provide introductions to legal topics, explain relevant terms, and provide citations to relevant primary law and cases. American Jurisprudence is a national legal encyclopedia that summarizes the broad principles of U.S. law and provides citations to cases, statutes, and rules. Texas Jurisprudence is the Texas state equivalent of the national legal encyclopedia. Both series are available in print in the LSC-North Harris Library and full-text on Westlaw.

Print

American Jurisprudence volumes American Jurisprudence 2d
Texas Jurisprudence volumes Texas Jurisprudence 3d

To find your topic in one of the legal encyclopedias

  1. Locate the General Index for the series.
  2. Look up your topic alphabetically and find the larger topic name and section numbers given.
  3. Locate the volume(s) that include that topic. (Tip: the volume will not always include the name on the side. Sometimes the name falls between the two topics that start and end the volume, so it is not listed but is contained within the volume).
  4. Use the heading and section number to locate the section relating to your topic. 

Important: be sure to also check for pocket parts to get the most current information!

 

Electronic

Both American Jurisprudence and Texas Jurisprudence are available full-text in Westlaw. 

To find your topic in tone of the legal encyclopedias on Westlaw:

  1. On the Westlaw homepage, use the search box to type in the name of the legal encyclopedia.(ex.- Texas Jurisprudence). 
  2. As you type, Westlaw should pop up a box that says "Looking for this?" with the name of the series. Click on the series name.
  3. This opens up that encyclopedia. From here, you can either use the Table of Contents to browse to your topic or use the search box to search for your topic within the encyclopedia.

Digest Abstracts select to expand list

 
Assignment:
Digest Abstracts  Using the descriptive word index of the Texas Digest, look up two digest abstracts that reference case relating to topic. Copy abstracts and include in this tab.

 

For the Digest Abstracts, you will use the Descriptive Words found in the first step of this project to look up information in the rest of the Texas Digest series.

Print

Texas Digest volumes

 

 Texas Digest 2d

To find the Digest Abstracts

  1. Using the Descriptive Word Index listings for your topic, locate the heading and key number(s) for the topic of your choice.
  2. Find the volume(s) of the Texas Digest that cover the heading listed. (Tip: the volume will not always include the name on the side. Sometimes the name falls between the two topics that start and end the volume, so it is not listed but is contained within the volume)
  3. Use the heading and section number to locate the section relating to your topic. The section will include abstracts and citations for cases on the topic.

(Important note: If you require all print resources, be sure to choose 2 cases for this step which come from the Southwestern Reporter series. LSC-North Harris Library only has the print Shephard's Citators for Texas cases.)

Important: be sure to also check for pocket parts to get the most current information!

 

Electronic

Although published by West, the Texas Digest is only available in print. The closest online equivalent is Westlaw's topic and key number system, which lets you click on a key number in Westlaw and takes you to a page with cases related to that key number. For the purposes of this term project, however, you will typically need to use the print series.

 

Laymen's Brief select to expand list

 
Assignment:
Laymen's Brief Pick one of the two cases from the digest abstract and type a one to two page lawmen's brief using the IRAC format. Find case on Lexis and print out the first page.

 

Cases from Texas' supreme and appellate courts are published in the Southwestern Reporter and the Southwestern Reporter: Texas Cases. Case law for federal cases is published in the Federal Supplement for decisions of the federal district courts, the Federal Reporter for decisions of the federal appellate courts, and the U.S. Reportsthe U.S. Supreme Court Reports Lawyer's Edition, and the Supreme Court Reporter for decisions of the United States Supreme Court. 

The Southwestern Reporter 2d and 3d are available in print in the LSC-North Harris Library and in full-text on Westlaw and LexisNexis Academic. 

LSC-North Harris Library has some of the federal series available in print, but all are available full-text on Westlaw and in a less annotated form on LexisNexis Academic.

 

Print

Southwestern Reporter Texas Cases 2d volumes

 

Southwestern Reporter

Southwestern Reporter 2d

Southwestern Reporter 3d

Important: you must have a citation in order to locate a case in a reporter series. The citation tells you where to find the case in the series.

Southwestern Reporter currently consists of 3 different versions, Southwestern Reporter, Southwestern Reporter 2d, and Southwestern Reporter 3d. These are not editions in the sense of replacements but rather they keep building over time. Reporters are published in chronological order with the newest cases published in the latest volumes. When Southwestern reaches volume number 999, they simply start over at 1 with a new edition. 

  

How to Read a Case Citation: 

Case Citation Example 593 SW 2d 688

First Number = Volume Number

Middle = Name of the Reporter Series including the edition

Last Number = Page Number where the report starts.

 

Electronic

Full, annotated versions of state and federal cases can be found on Westlaw. The basic case reports without annotations are also available through the Lone Star College subscription to LexisNexis Academic.  

To search for a case on LexisNexis Academic:

  1. Go to the research database, LexisNexis Academic. (To access this database from off campus, you will need your 14 digit library barcode number from the back of your Student ID card). Note: This is not the full legal version of LexisNexis, but a condensed version for news and business available to all Lone Star students through the Libraries. However, it does provide access to the basic case reports. 
  2. On the LexisNexis Academic homepage, locate the box in the bottom middle of the page labeled Look Up a Legal Case.
  3. Enter the citation for your case (or search by party names or by topic)
  4. Searching by citation will bring you straight to the report for that case. 

 

To search for a case on Westlaw:

  1. From the Westlaw homepage, use the main search box to search for your case. 
  2. You can search by citation, by party names, or by keywords. 
  3. Searching by citation will bring you straight to the report for that case. 
  4. On Westlaw, you will see more annotations including Headnotes and tabs for Negative Treatment, History, and Citing References

 

KeyCite & Shepardize select to expand list

 

Assignment:
KeyCite & Shepardize Shepardize your case by copying appropriate references in Shepards and all supplements. You must copy the first page of Shepards along with the supplement in order to receive credit for this portion of the assignment. If you find no information, copy the page where the case would be and include it in this tab. Include a printout of the KeyCite from Westlaw.

 

Shepardizing refers to checking a citator to see how and when another case has cited the case that you are researching. Shepardizing is important because it helps you check the status of a case or statute to ensure that it is still good law. It also helps to locate other cases, statutes, and legal resources that cite your case on a similar legal issue.

The term "Shepard's" comes from the original print version of citators, but now is used to generically refer to the act of checking all citing cases. (Think of Shepards as a brand name, like "Kleenex," that we use to refer to all things in that category even if it is not that brand). You can Shepardize both in print and electronically.

Note: LSC-North Harris Library only subscribes to Shepard's Texas Citations in print. For cases outside of Texas, please use Westlaw's KeyCite.

 

Print

 

Shepard's Texas Citations

To Shepardize in print, you will use Shepard's Texas Citations series. In order to Shepardize a case, you will need the case citation. 

For full instructions for Shepardizing in Print, see the Guide available from Lexis: How to Shepardize: Your Guide to Legal Research Using Shepard's Citations in Print

Important: be sure to check all available supplements to fully Shepardize your case! To make sure that you check everything, look for the paperback supplement with the most recent date and look at the list of books on the cover under "What Your Library Should Contain." This will list each of the volumes and supplements that you need to be sure to check.

 

Electronic

"Shepardizing" in Westlaw is referred to instead by the term KeyCite since the company Lexis has a copyright on the Shepard's name. KeyCite in Westlaw accomplishes the same thing as Shepardizing by tracking the citing cases (cases that cite the case that you are researching).

To "shepardize"  in Westlaw:

  1. On the Westlaw homepage, search for your case and click on the case report..
  2. There will be tabs across the top. The two tabs that relate to Shepardizing are Negative Treatment and Citing References.
  3. The Negative Treatment tab lists any subsequent cases or laws that treated the case that you are researching in a negative way.
  4.  The Citing References tab lists all subsequent cases (and other legal resources) that have cited the case that you are looking at (including those that treated it negatively). 

For further instructions in using Westlaw's KeyCite, see the Westlaw Guide: Checking Citations in KeyCite.

Additional Resources select to expand list