Limit Your Searches

One of the things that we teach at Head Start* programs is how to limit searching to the most relevant set of data that will lead quickly to an answer. Today’s Tip is to remember that a data set limit might be a jurisdiction, court level or date range or it could be deciding to look first to digests of cases rather than a full text source.

A student recently asked how many cases to use in a memo to illustrate his research findings.  My response: only as many as you need to show binding or if not binding then persuasive authority to support your point.  Limiting initial case law searching to sources of binding authority is a good step for a first sweep on an issue. Who knows – you may find an appropriate answer right away.

We also remind searchers in Head Start programs that a caselaw search isn’t the first step, but that is a tip that we have alluded to many times before.

* Head Start programs are legal research refresher seminars that are offered to articling students in various communities – see the upcoming CALL/ACBD Webinar on the SWOT of Law Library Head Start Programs for more information.

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