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California Legal Research   Tags: california, law, legal, research, state  

Use this as a guide to researching California law using any of these three tools: Legal encyclopedias/treatises, Annotated codes, or Case Digests.
Last Updated: Apr 1, 2014 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

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Search the Catalog (OSCAR)


Journal Finder

Journal Finder
Search Journal List

Other California Research Guides

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Each of the above approaches can lead you to relevant California case law. The approach you choose will depend on the amount of information that you have at the beginning of your research. For example, do you just have a citation for a statute or a West Topic and Key Number? Or are you just starting with a legal topic without any citations? This guide will tell you which approach to choose based on the information that you have at the start of your research project.


While you're reviewing this guide, you will probably find it helpful to have ready access to the books and databases that we discuss.

Finding Journal Articles

In addition to searching the full-text databases for law review articles on WestLaw and Lexis, you may also want to do a search within a bibliographic database.  This will not include the full-text, but are much more comprehensive than the full-text databases.  You may search for journal articles here that you would miss otherwise.

Locating the Law

The law librarians at the Southern California Association of Law Libraries have created a wonderful, and concise, guide to legal research that includes California, Federal, and International legal materials.  All of these documents are in PDF format.   You will need Adobe Reader to view them.

These are selected chapters from this e-book.  If you would like to view the entire book you can access it via the SCALL website.

  • Chapter 2 - How to read a legal citation
    This chapter will describe citations to cases, statutes or codes, and law reviews and treatises. A short discussion of legal citation manuals and a list of common abbreviations are also included in this chapter.
  • Chapter 3 - Basic legal research techniques
    This chapter is intended to serve as a guide for public librarians assisting users who have legal reference questions.
  • Chapter 5 - California Law
    The state of California has done a great job of making its primary sources of law widely available via the Internet. In addition, legal publishers publish a multitude of secondary sources1 in print and in online databases. This abundance of information has made researching California law easy for some and overwhelming for others. For those without a legal background (and most with one), it is always advisable to start with a secondary source.
  • Chapter 7 - Federal Law
    This chapter provides brief descriptions of the legislative process and the federal judiciary and focuses on the primary sources of federal law (i.e., cases, statutes, and regulations). Included are references to both print and Internet sources.

Subject Guide

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Ellen Platt

CALI Lessons

  • California Primary Sources
    This lesson will introduce you to all of the types of primary sources you will encounter when researching California law. Topics include the Constitution, Statutes and Codes, administrative law, court system, and researching cases in California. No prior knowledge of California legal materials is required.
  • California Secondary Sources
    This lesson will serve as an introduction to some of the secondary resources available in the field of California law. The topics covered include the online and print formats of treatises, practice guides and the state legal encyclopedia. No prior knowledge of California law or legal materials is required, however students should have a basic understanding of building search queries with Westlaw and Lexis.
  • Introduction the California Style Manual
    This lesson will help you master legal citations using the California Style Manual, Fourth Edition (hereinafter "Manual"). This exercise is to assist you to master the specific rules of citation for your briefs and legal memoranda. It does not deal with proper citation formats for law review footnotes. Throughout this lesson, you will be asked to read specific portions of the Manual and apply that knowledge to answer interactive exercises.

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