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This guide is directed to provide the student attorney in Maryland with a starting point for practice-oriented legal research, with special emphasis on the area of appellate advocacy.
With any project, unless you are already knowledgeable about the topic area, it's best to start with secondary sources and then to consult primary sources. Secondary sources such as handbooks, guides, and manuals, as well as sample forms and other practice materials, provide an attorney with rules and guidelines for law practice within certain jurisdictions. Articles and books can provide you with an overview of your topic and help you think of search terms you might not have thought of otherwise. They also cite primary authorities such as statutes and cases. You can use the primary sources cited in secondary sources as a jumping off point to find other primary sources in several ways:
- Shepardize or KeyCite them to see what other sources have cited them (visit the Shepard's Citation Service tutorial or the KeyCite tutorial for more information);
- Read cases to see what other sources they cite;
- On Westlaw or in West Digests (for example, the Maryland Digest), look up the topics and key numbers in the cases you've already read to find other cases that address the same issues;
- On Lexis, use "More Like This" to find other sources with wording or citation patterns similar to the document you started with;
- Read annotations to statutes to find cross references to cases that have analyzed them or regulations that have been issued under their authority.