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Summer Legal Research Tips

Top Ten Tips for Cost-Effective Online Searching



  • The meter is running
  • Close your door
  • Turn off your phone
  • FOCUS 

2.  Know your issue

  • Never begin with a keyword case search
  • Do some background research to become familiar with your topic
  • See the Secondary Sources Tab of this Guide
  • Do you know what the acronyms stand for?
  • Are there terms of art you need to look up?

3.  Write down your search statement on paper

  • Start with a plan
    • What will you do if you find too much?
    • What will you do if you find too little?

4.  When in doubt call, phone a friend!  The commercial vendors have 24/7 toll-free phone numbers. You can also call the Law Library Reference Desk:

  • LEXIS                        (800) 543-6862 (menu option 1)
  • Westlaw                     (800) REF-ATTY
  • GSU Law Ref. Desk   (404) 413-9102 *not 24 hours!

5.  Pre-Filter

  • narrow down by jurisdiction
  • narrow down by type of material 

6.  Change the display order

  • Relevance may not be the best way to view a list
  • Change to Date-newest first or Most Cited

7.  Too much is better than too little - Start broad and narrow down

8.  Observe the 15-minute rule of thumb

  • if you haven't found anything relevant within 15 minutes STOP
  • more time won't help
  • log off and regroup

9.  Print sparingly

10.  Understand the charges

  • No matter what the pricing plan, start with a BROAD search and stay within it. [Filters are free!]
  • Flat-rate plan or transactional? Know the difference and what you are using.
  • No cost or low-cost alternatives: these can be great but remember what we don't pay with cash might require more time or intellectual effort.


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Disclaimer: The views and opinions of the authors expressed herein do not necessarily state or reflect those of the State of Georgia, and shall not be used for advertising or product endorsement purposes. Georgia State University College of Law and the authors of the works contained on this website do not assume or accept any legal liability or responsibility for the accuracy, currentness, or comprehensiveness of the content on this website. The content on this website does not in any manner constitute the issuance of legal advice or counsel. The information on this website is intended to provide resources that may aid the research of the topics presented, and are in no way a comprehensive list of sources one should consult on the topics presented. Please note that case law, statutory law, and administrative law may be modified and/or overturned. Additionally, because the laws vary between jurisdictions, the laws referred to herein may or may not be applicable to the law within the reader’s jurisdiction.