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Citizen's Legal Guide

This guide is intended as a resource for people doing their own legal research.


Welcome to the Citizen's Legal Research guide.  This guide is intended to help everyday people doing legal research.  If you're a Commonwealth University student taking a class at the university, please refer to the Legal guide.

Okay, first, a legal notice of our own:  The Commonwealth University libraries are not law libraries.  The librarians are not lawyers.  We cannot give you legal advice.  We cannot tell you what forms to fill out or whether a law or ordinance is applicable to your situation.  What we can do is guide you towards books, websites, and other resources that you can use on your own. 

How Should I Research My Legal Problem?

Every legal issue is different, but here is a recommended way to research your issue.  It's helpful to follow the steps in the order listed below.

1.  If you can afford a lawyer, or can get free or reduced-fee legal advice, it may be best for you to do that.  Here are some websites where you can find someone to talk to:

2. Click on the link on the left for Common Legal Issues.  See if your issue is listed here, and look at the recommended resources. 

3.  Read books written for non-lawyers.  These books talk about legal issues in plain language.  Books published by Nolo are often helpful.  Here are some recommendations, or look in our library's catalog. NOTE: ebook access restricted off campus to use by faculty, staff, and students only.

Look at legal encyclopedias.  These give basic overviews of the law concerning broad topics.  Some legal encyclopedias include:

5.  Search for academic journal or law review articles on your topic.  You can find articles through our legal databases:

6. Finally, if you have not answered your question, search through the actual laws, regulations, court cases, or other legal documents concerning your issue.  Click on the Ordinances, Regulations, Statutes, and Court Information link on the left.