It's important to begin your research with a plan.
That plan should include both your goals (what are the questions you hope to answer?) and methods for accomplishing those goals (what are the sources you plan to find and examine?).
While your initial instincts to run some searches in Google and in Westlaw or Lexis' caselaw databases may yield some promising results, your plan should be much richer and more detailed in terms of the specific sources you plan to search, and should include the sources most likely to yield the types of materials you need for your research.
1. 50-state survey of statutes
- Select state(s) for focus
- Find leading current statute
2. Caselaw for selected state(s)
- Use state statute to search, if applicable
- Use key numbers to search
- Refine w/ terms, date, citators (Sh/KC)
3. Regulations, if applicable, for selected state(s)
4. Other Agency Materials, if applicable, for selected state(s)
- What role does the agency have in this area?
- Granting benefits/licenses/approvals?
- Internal guidelines
- Interpretation of statute
5. Federal statute(s), if applicable
- as in step 1
6. Federal caselaw, if applicable
- as in step 2
7. Federal regulations, if applicable
- as in step 3 and 4
8. Practice materials
- Forms and guidance
- Expert interpretations
- Handbooks / Deskbooks
9. Non-Law Sources
- Social Science research
- Practice sources in other fields
New to these topics? Begin with an overview of topics using a subject encyclopedia or handbook or your text or the table of contents of a relevant journal, browse and read to get some initial ideas.
Use your text, its footnotes, and other books on topics of interest to expore more of what has already been discussed in your topics of interest. While not as current as recent journal articles, a book can cover a topic in much greater detail.
Search for scholarly Journal Articles in law and other fields, using indexes and journal databases. Articles will provide you with peer-reviewed and scientifically sound research to back your arguments.
Use statistics and/or other data from government sources, independent organizations, advocacy groups etc as needed.
And finally, find relevant law as necessary to support your paper overall!!