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Welcome to Legal Research and Writing

A survey of the basic concepts behind legal research and beginning legal writing. This course covers the requisite knowledge and proficiencies needed to develop strong legal research and writing skills.


Michelle Dewey, LLM
Reference and Electronic Services Librarian
Mercer University School of Law
Heather Simmons, JD
Associate Director for Instruction and Access Services
University of Georgia School of Law
Sara Benson, LLM
Copyright Librarian and Associate Professor
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign


Welcome to Legal Research and Writing! Designed for 1Ls, the course surveys the basic concepts of legal research and writing. Authored by Michelle Dewey, Heather Simmons, and Sara Benson, law librarians from the University of Illinois College of Law, this course’s nine chapters consist of 35 videos, 185 multiple-choice questions, and 9 practical exercises. 

Chapter one introduces the foundations of legal research, starting with an overview of American law, primary and secondary sources, and the hierarchy of legal authority. 

Chapter two explains how to understand and work with cases. This chapter covers how case law is developed, the anatomy of a case, headnotes and editorial enhancements, and citators. 

Chapter three covers statutory law, including how legislation is produced and codified, legislative history, and the anatomy of a code. 

The fourth chapter tackles administrative law. This chapter introduces administrative materials, regulations and the rulemaking process, finding and updating regulations, and administrative decisions and other agency materials. 

Chapter five covers the various types of secondary sources, from legal dictionaries to model acts. 

Chapter six details the systems and tools used in legal research, with an emphasis on finding tools. 

Chapter seven promotes strong search skills, including developing search queries, working with database fields and filters, and evaluating results lists. 

Chapter eight digs into the planning and process of legal research. Additionally, this chapter surveys the different types of legal research plans. 

Chapter nine covers the basics of legal writing, including the different forms of legal writing, the IREAC format, rule synthesis, fact application, and general best practices. 

Complete this course, and you'll acquire strong legal research and writing skills that'll serve you well throughout your legal career!