Carefully and thoroughly go over the facts of your situation. Ask: who, what, where, when?
Who are the people or parties involved?
What group, class or status of persons is involved? What is their relationship to each other?
What item is involved? What is the subject matter of the dispute?
Where did the events take place? What is the location of the incident?
When did the event/incident take place? What is the time and date of the incident?
What is the possible cause of action or legal theory? (Is this a tort? Breach of contract? Is there a defense?)
What relief is being sought? (Money damages? Injunction? Criminal penalties?)
Create your Question Presented or Thesis Statement from the answers to your factual questions.
Step Two: Generate Research Vocabulary
Think of terms and phrases that might be applied to your facts and issues. Be sure to come up with as many synonyms, antonyms, broader, narrower and related terms as possible. Use the terms and phrases as keyword searches or index terms.
Step Three: Search for Sources
Use your research vocabulary as index and search terms for both online and print sources.
A. Secondary Sources
Legal Encyclopedia and ALR
Law Reviews and Journals
Treatises, Texts and Hornbooks
Practice Materials, Formbooks, Current Awareness Sources
B. Primary Authority (Look for primary authority. If none, try persuasive authority.)
Statutes, Codes and Legislative History
Cases: Find and Update
Administrative Regulations and Decisions
Step Four: Validate and Update Results
Update your cases, statutes and rules to be sure you have the latest authority. Verify with citators (Shepard’s or Keycite) that your authority remains "good law." Also check for new laws or amendments or pending legislation.