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Statutory Research Basics


Welcome to the Finding Statutes, Constitutions, & Codes Libguide!

No meaningful legal research project would be complete without an exploration of the applicable and relevant statutes, constitutions, and codes. Before you can analyze the statutory materials relevant to your research project, you have to know how to find them. This LibGuide will introduce you to resources that may guide you in the finding the statutes, constitutions, and codes you need to effectively conduct legal research.  These resources will assist you to:

  • Understand the basics of statutory research
  • Learn the types of statutory publications & learn when to consult each type
  • Find and research Federal laws
  • Find and research State laws
  • Find and research Local laws
  • Look at Legislative History
  • Ensure that your statute is valid and presently in effect
  • Analyze the statutes you've found

What is a Statute?

What is a Statute?

A statute is a primary source of law.  Statutes command that something be undertaken, prohibit something from being done, or declare what the law is.  Statutes are also known as laws or legislation - bills that have been passed into being and effect by a legislature.

Remember there are both federal statutes and state statutes. Each are controlling in different ways and may only be persuasive depending on your jurisdiction. It is important to always make sure you are researching the correct statutes for your jurisdiction.

How to find a Statute

How to find a Statute

Here's some things to try when you looking for the law on a particular topic or issue:

  • Use the Index! Online services have indexes that you can use to search by topic or keyword.
  • Use the annotations. Annotated codes are designed to help guide you to related resources and materials. If your search brings up a related, but not quite on point statute, use the annotations to help you find the law that's directly on point.
  • Use the advanced search. On both Westlaw and Lexis you can use an advanced search to start a more directed search. To do this click on statutes or pick state or federal and go from there. From that page you can click on the advanced search link and use the boxes to formulate your search.
  • Ask your law librarians. We'll get you pointed in the right direction!