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Legal Research at TLU: Welcome


This guide will help you conduct legal research at TLU. Although TLU does not have access to LexisNexis or Westlaw, we can conduct a lot of research through the open Web. We will also use the State Law Library, which provides online access to several resources to anyone in Texas.

Thanks to Dr. O'Brochta from the Political Science department for collaborating with librarians to create this guide!


Some volumes of the United States Statutes at Large in the TLU library. The library's Ready Reference section (main floor) includes the most recent complete print edition of the United States Code (laws arranged by topic) and the United States Statues at Large (laws arranged chronologically). 

Types of legal research sources

Lawyers go through a methodical research process to make sure they are covering every aspect of the legal problem they are investigating. As TLU students, you do not need to reach that level of depth, but you can practice some of the steps. Some legal research sources are:

Secondary sources

Primary sources

Checking that a case is still "good law"

Citing and writing

Legal dictionaries and encyclopedias

After you create an account with the State Law Library, you can access their ebooks, which include several legal dictionaires and encyclopedias. 

Books written by experts

Consult with your professor about which books are appropriate for your purposes. Looking at the book's publisher provides a good clue. Many academic books are published by university presses. Some of the major publishers of legal books and treatists are LexisNexis (part of RELX), West (part of Thomson Reuters), Wolters Kluwer, and Bloomberg Industry Group. 

Books on the law can be found in the K section of the Library of Congress Classification. 

After you create an account with the State Law Library, you can access their ebooks.

If the TLU library doesn't have the legal book you want, you can place a request through Interlibrary Loan

Articles in journals and law reviews

When conducting legal research, you will likely come across scholarly articles published in law reviews and scholarly articles in academic journals. It is important to understand the difference between a law review and an academic journal as it relates to peer review. Articles in academic journals that are peer-reviewed undergo a quality assurance mechanism wherein submissions are evaluated by other experts in the research field and are revised according to expert feedback. This process is extensive: most academic journals reject more than 3/4 of article submissions, and the peer review process often takes years to complete.

Law review article submissions are evaluated by law students. While these articles are often high-quality and interesting, they are not peer-reviewed. Check with your professor to see whether it is OK for you to cite law reviews or whether they want you to stick to peer-reviewed sources.

So how can you tell that your source is a law review? Most law reviews will list part of the law school name or the words “law review” in the title. Have questions if your source is a law review or not? Ask a TLU librarian or your professor for help!

Administrative regulations


Seguin municipal code

Downtown Seguin. Image by Lezlie K. King and published under a CC BY-SA 3.0 Deed license via Wikimedia Commons

Indian court cases

Dr. O'Brochta's students sometimes need to search for case law from the country of India. 

United States federal and state case law

The most robust case law search TLU students can access is Fastcase provided by the State Law Library. The boxes below this one discuss the sign-up steps. 

Creating an account with the State Law Library

Anyone living in Texas can create an account and use certain resources provided by the State Law Library. It is a public law library. Once you have an account, you can access databases like HeinOnline (which includes many legal journals and law reviews) and Fastcase (which includes case law).

Visit this page to start creating your Texas State Law Library account. 

  • There are several steps to creating an account. Be patient and don't give up! Feel free to ask a TLU librarian to help you step through the process - show them this LibGuide.
  • To determine your location, the website will use geolocation to verify that you are using a Texas computer.
  • When asked to list your address, you can list either your address at TLU or your home address.

Create a strong password and keep it handy so you can log back in.


Check boxes on the page

An example snippet of the registration form



Once you have gained access to Fastcase by creating an account with the Texas State Law Library, visit their Fastcase guide for tips and tricks about searching it effectively.


Example search in Fastcase. I used quotation marks to keep my keywords "college students" together as a phrase, and I used filters to narrow my results. 

Check on a case's authority

Researchers who need to know whether a case is still "good law" should consult a citator, which is a print or subscription resource tracing the history of case law. TLU does not have access to Westlaw's KeyCite Citator or to Lexis's Shepard's Citation Service. Once you have gained access to Fastcase by creating an account with the Texas State Law Library, you can use a feature called Authority Check, which can help identify cases that have been challenged or overruled. Authority Check is not an official citator, but it can be helpful when an official citator is not easy to access. 

The red icon indicates that Plessy v. Ferguson has been overruled. 


The red flag indicates that the case has received negative treatment (other published opinions have criticized or challenged it; it may not be "good law.")

Formatting legal citations

Citations to court cases (judicial opinions) are formatted differently than citations to books or articles. The full guidelines for legal citations can be found in The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation. Here are some of the basics of citing cases.

Example citation to a court case 

Waco Independent School Dist. v. Gibson, 22 S.W.3d 849 (Tex. 2000).

  • Waco Independent School Dist. v. Gibson: Names of parties
    • The parties in this case are Waco Independent School District and Gibson. In the initial case, the Plaintiff is listed first followed by the Defendant. In appeals cases, the Appellant / Petitioner is usually listed first and Appellee / Respondent second. 
  • 22: Volume number of the reporter
    • A reporter is a book in which opinions are published.
  • S.W.3d: Abbreviation for the reporter
    • This reporter is called the South Western Reporter Third. Each reporter has an official abbreviation. 
  • 849: Starting page number 
  • Tex.: Abbreviation for the court
    • Tex. is the Texas Supreme Court.
  • 2000: Year the case was decided

Screenshot of the case in Google Scholar

Screenshot of the case in Google Scholar



Citing a case in your paper (American Political Science Association format)

If you are using a case in your research, you need to both understand the way a case citation is formatted using the Bluebook citation and to understand how to implement that citation in different situations. In most citation styles, legal cases and statutes are not included in a reference list or bibliography. Here are three examples of appropriate citation in American Political Science Association format:

  1. If you mention a legal case or statute in the text, the case is italicized, including the v. For example, Baker v. Carr is a Supreme Court case. The year is not included. If you refer to the case again shortly after the first mention you can refer just to the plaintiff or Baker.
  2. You may wish to cite a legal case or statute using a parenthetical or in-text citation. These citations include the name of the case (in italics except for v.) or statute and the year. Here is a citation for a Supreme Court case (Baker v. Carr 1962).
  3. These methods are generally preferred, especially when citing a Supreme Court case. You can choose to cite a legal case or statute in a footnote, in which case you should use the full Bluebook citation format mentioned above.

Ask a Librarian

Reference desk

TLU librarians offer in-depth research help.


During library open hours, ask at the main desk for help finding what you need or help setting up an appointment with a librarian. 



Click on the Ask a Question tab on the right side of a library web page. It will bring you either to live chat, or to a place where you can leave a message. 


830-372-8100 (main desk)

Library directory (list of individual library staff and faculty)




Profile Photo
Amelia Koford
Library Office 115

--Interlibrary Loan--

Need an item that our library doesn't own? No worries, you can email the title, author and date of what you need to or fill out a form. We can get most (but not all) articles within 2 days and many books within 4-8 days. 

For more information, visit our interlibrary loan page.