Basic Research

This guide is a series of tutorials covering very basic library research tasks.

Other Research Guides

Step One - Citation or Subject-Area?

If you already have a citation, move to step two.  If you do not have a citation, but are looking for cases relevant to a particular subject you will need to use a case digest.  There are case digests produced for both the state and federal courts.  All case digests will have a subject index at the end of the set.  Try looking for similar terms in this subject index to locate relevant cases.  You may want to look up your term in a law dictionary (such as Black's Law Dictionary) to see if a synonym is more commonly used.  If you need help using a case digest please speak with a law librarian.

Step Two - Which jurisdiction?

The next step in locating a case from its citation is to determine in which jurisdiction the case was heard.  Is it federal or state?  If state, which state?  To give you an idea of the case reporters for the federal and California courts look at these case reporters charts -- California Case Reporters and Federal Case Reporters.

Step Three - Locate the opinion

Once you know which case reporter your citation is found in, you can retrieve it off the shelf.  If you need a refresher on how to read a legal citation please read this research guide - How to read a legal citation?


Remember, the volume preceeds the citation stem and the page number follows.


For example: Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483, 74 S. Ct. 686, 98 L. Ed. 873 (1954)


"347" is the volume and "483" is the page in U.S. Reports.  The two unofficial parallel citations follow this official citation.

If you are confused please come speak with a law librarian.


Heafey Law Library Research Team