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Li Ka Shing Library

Legal Research & Writing (LAW 106): Evaluating Resources

Guide to legal research for law students.

Wikipedia and Legal Research

Questions you should be asking

 “Working the Problem”

(Table modified from Callister, P.D. "Thinking like a Research Expert: Schemata for Teaching Complex Problem-Solving Skills", 2009, )

What you need to know

Sample Questions


Who ?


Who are we representing (i.e. which side of the issue are we on –buyer or seller, plaintiff or defendant, etc.)? 


What legal entities are involved (any trusts, corporations, partnerships, etc)?






Descriptive Words of Facts or Terms of Art

Besides the term “profit-sharing plan” are there other terms I should be using, like “pension” or “retirement”?  I’m not sure if I understand the difference or if it matters.  How else might a “sole shareholder” be described in the literature?



Descriptive Words of Legal Issues

Do you think that the best subject heading to describe the problem is “exemptions from creditors”?


Specific Sources to be used

For my research on retirement plans and exemptions from creditors, is there any specific treatises of loose-leaf service I should consult in addition to CCH’s Pension Plan Guide?





Applicable Jurisdictions

Do you want me to research Singapore’s bankruptcy law as well as UK’s debtor creditor law? Do you want me to confine my research to Australia or should I expand it to the Commonwealth?  Are you interested in other countries? Are there any choice of law issues?






Time Periods

What time periods do you want me to research?  Are the last two years sufficient? Does the time period (day, night, season, etc) of any of the events in the case matter?



Time Deadlines/ Priority

Do you need a quick answer or exhaustive research?  If I complete this by Tuesday morning, is that ok?

When do you need this by?





What are we trying to accomplish with this memo, brief, motion, contract, etc?  How do we want this to come out?






Do you want all the relevant journal articles or just the best article on the topic?  Do you want all the cases dealing with retirement plans in debtor-creditor law or just two to three cases that bear the closest relationship to the issue?



Billable Time/ Costs

How long should this take me?  Are billable hours limited?  May I use Lexis and/or Westlaw?  Which parts of the research, if any, would you do online?  Do you want me to try and use free resources for my research?


Has anyone ever done similar research on the topic that I should know about?



Presentations of Results and Reporting Back

How do you want me to present my results?  Do you want printouts marked with highlighter or a full memo?  Should I check back with my initial results before proceeding further? 




Questions for Evaluating Resources

WHO is the author of the site?

  • Are the author's qualifications known?
  • Can the author be contacted?

WHAT am I getting? Is the information biased in any way?

  • Is any copyright information available?

WHERE is the web-page located?  

WHEN was the site posted and when was it last updated?

  • When was the web-page published?
  • When was the information last updated?

WHY do I think this site is a credible source of information?

  • Can you determine the purpose of the message of the web-page?

HOW do I know that?

  • Can factual information be verified?
  • If data is presented, is the source known?
  • Is a reference list available?


The use of electronic resources must comply with the Appropriate Use of Electronic Resources Policy and Singapore Management University Acceptable Use Policy