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Legal Research & Law

Research guide designed to help those researching the law or legal topics.

Why Cite Your Sources?

When you write a research paper, you use information and facts from a variety of resources to support your own ideas or to help you develop new ones. Books, articles, caselaw, videos, interviews, and Web sites are some examples of sources you might use. Citing these sources of information in your work is essential because:

  • It gives credit to the author of the original work who provided you with the information or idea.
  • It allows your audience to identify and find the source material in order to learn more about your topic.
  • It gives your paper more credibility because it shows you're supporting your arguments with high-quality sources.

How Do I Cite?

You will need to cite your sources in two places:

  • Within your work at the place where you are incorporating the information.
  • In a comprehensive list of all sources you’ve cited throughout the paper.

How you cite depends on which style manual you are using. For “in-text” references some styles require parenthetical citations, while others require footnotes/endnotes. The list of all sources used is also laid out depending on the style you use.

Legal materials have their own citation style

Your instructor may ask you to use that style, often referred to as Blue Book style, or one of the other citation styles.

The important thing is to be consistent; whatever style you use, make sure you use it throughout the entire paper.


What Do I Cite?

Cite all outside sources you use in your research paper! Citing is required for sources you quote word-for-word, for sources you paraphrase (rewrite using your own words), and for sources from which you summarize ideas within your work.

Quote Example:

The quote below appears exactly as it does in Joanna Santa Barbara's article on child-rearing in the Encyclopedia of Violence Peace and Conflict.

“Adjusted data from seven U.S. surveys between 1968 and 1994 show a decline in approval of disciplinary spanking from 94% to 68%, or 26 percentage points in 26 years” (Santa Barbara 243).

Paraphrase Example:

This sentence takes the information above and puts it into the author’s own words.

Studies show that Americans are becoming more critical of the concept of spanking children. Between 1968 and 1994 the so-called “approval rating” of spanking children dropped from 94% to 68% (Santa Barbara 243).

Summarize Example:

The sentence below distills the main idea of the original information.

Studies have shown that Americans just don't approve of spanking like they used to (Santa Barbara 243).