tips for organizing research for brief

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swtlilsoni
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tips for organizing research for brief

Postby swtlilsoni » Thu Apr 11, 2013 11:55 pm

I end up looking through a million cases on Westlaw, and then doing endless searches and rereading cases to look for certain things and it's a mess. Does anyone have any good ideas on keeping the research organized and getting what you need from the cases without wasting too much time going back and forth?

rad lulz
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Re: tips for organizing research for brief

Postby rad lulz » Fri Apr 12, 2013 12:02 am

Find rule

Apply the rule to your facts

Analogize fact patterns of similar cases to yours

Distinguish cases with facts that go against yours

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swtlilsoni
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Re: tips for organizing research for brief

Postby swtlilsoni » Fri Apr 12, 2013 12:07 am

rad lulz wrote:Find rule

Apply the rule to your facts

Analogize fact patterns of similar cases to yours

Distinguish cases with facts that go against yours


thanks but im not talking so much about the writing part, as much as the research phase. i was just looking for tips on how to organize my research so i dont have to keep going back to cases and rereading while im writing. do you guys make a table of all the cases you found? or just write briefs for them all?

rad lulz
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Re: tips for organizing research for brief

Postby rad lulz » Fri Apr 12, 2013 12:29 am

Sometime I'll make a table to keep it all straight, but the briefs I wrote for school didn't tend to be that involved. A couple cases that were good to state or exemplify the rule, and two or three that were good for similar/dissimilar facts. I'd just highlight/underline of the cases themselves usually and spread everything out around me.

I am fully aware that this approach seems disorganized and may not work for everyone.

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Blessedassurance
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Re: tips for organizing research for brief

Postby Blessedassurance » Fri Apr 12, 2013 12:38 am

swtlilsoni wrote:I end up looking through a million cases on Westlaw, and then doing endless searches and rereading cases to look for certain things and it's a mess. Does anyone have any good ideas on keeping the research organized and getting what you need from the cases without wasting too much time going back and forth?


Use WestlawNext. First highlight (with notes), the specific parts of the opinion that you need. Then group the cases under different headings in the research folder. It's pretty simple.

Once you need to refresh your memory, you simply scroll through the case to the highlighted portions with notes, without having to reread the opinions. Additionally, use word documents liberally to help you in summarizing cases etc. That will come in handy.

You start off with an outline of your arguments and place the applicable cases under the appropriate headlines etc etc...with the notes in parenthetical. Then compose your brief from the outline. I guess I don't really understand your problem.

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jessuf
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Re: tips for organizing research for brief

Postby jessuf » Fri Apr 12, 2013 10:27 am

If you search for certain terms, Westlaw will also automatically highlight them, which is useful.

I used folders for my brief.

NotMyRealName09
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Re: tips for organizing research for brief

Postby NotMyRealName09 » Fri Apr 12, 2013 12:50 pm

I'm by no means an organized person, but its as simple as finding a case you like and emailing it to yourself (I use Lexis, which has a button for this, I'm sure Westlaw does too). Put some notes into the email saying what main point you like it for, cite the pages, or copy and paste the relevant language, or cite the headnote you like - be creative!

But once its time to put rubber to the road - I have a pile of printed out cases with my various highlights, and like a maniac I shuffle through them as I go, and the main cases I need naturally migrate to the top of the pile simply because I keep needing to cite them.

I guess I'm not being helpful, but for me, research is an organic process. I just FEEL it and know when I've found what I need.

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ph14
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Re: tips for organizing research for brief

Postby ph14 » Fri Apr 12, 2013 12:51 pm

swtlilsoni wrote:I end up looking through a million cases on Westlaw, and then doing endless searches and rereading cases to look for certain things and it's a mess. Does anyone have any good ideas on keeping the research organized and getting what you need from the cases without wasting too much time going back and forth?


You could try opening a word doc and copy and pasting language or points that you find interesting as you go along, then you have it all there at once when you need to go back and find it.

NotMyRealName09
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Re: tips for organizing research for brief

Postby NotMyRealName09 » Fri Apr 12, 2013 12:53 pm

Blessedassurance wrote:
swtlilsoni wrote:I end up looking through a million cases on Westlaw, and then doing endless searches and rereading cases to look for certain things and it's a mess. Does anyone have any good ideas on keeping the research organized and getting what you need from the cases without wasting too much time going back and forth?


Use WestlawNext. First highlight (with notes), the specific parts of the opinion that you need. Then group the cases under different headings in the research folder. It's pretty simple.

Once you need to refresh your memory, you simply scroll through the case to the highlighted portions with notes, without having to reread the opinions. Additionally, use word documents liberally to help you in summarizing cases etc. That will come in handy.

You start off with an outline of your arguments and place the applicable cases under the appropriate headlines etc etc...with the notes in parenthetical. Then compose your brief from the outline. I guess I don't really understand your problem.


This is a workable method, but I could just never "outline" a brief before hand. I just dive the hell in, with the only outline being the basic brief format (facts first, law, analysis). Then I edit. It seems to work out well for me, but different strokes...

NotMyRealName09
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Re: tips for organizing research for brief

Postby NotMyRealName09 » Fri Apr 12, 2013 12:54 pm

ph14 wrote:
swtlilsoni wrote:I end up looking through a million cases on Westlaw, and then doing endless searches and rereading cases to look for certain things and it's a mess. Does anyone have any good ideas on keeping the research organized and getting what you need from the cases without wasting too much time going back and forth?


You could try opening a word doc and copy and pasting language or points that you find interesting as you go along, then you have it all there at once when you need to go back and find it.


I've done this and this works too. I like the email method because then the case is attached. In Lexis at least, you can copy with a hyperlink. Then you paste your research in a word document with hyperlinks to the case online.

Another
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Postby Another » Fri Apr 12, 2013 3:13 pm

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Last edited by Another on Fri Nov 29, 2013 5:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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A. Nony Mouse
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Re: tips for organizing research for brief

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Fri Apr 12, 2013 3:49 pm

hopkins23 wrote:
ph14 wrote:
swtlilsoni wrote:I end up looking through a million cases on Westlaw, and then doing endless searches and rereading cases to look for certain things and it's a mess. Does anyone have any good ideas on keeping the research organized and getting what you need from the cases without wasting too much time going back and forth?


You could try opening a word doc and copy and pasting language or points that you find interesting as you go along, then you have it all there at once when you need to go back and find it.


I basically use the same method, though my way be even more caveman. Sometimes I'll even copy and paste a whole headnote or two of what I think is on point (of course those aren't the law, but it helps nonetheless to trigger my memory).

This is pretty much what I do, too. I try to create headings, not for an outline (I can't outline till I've drafted something), but for the major issues - so if the brief addresses 2 4th Amendment issues, I have a heading for issue #1 and issue #2; under each I might also have headings for "good for my argument", "bad for my argument" (depending on how much material I'm wading through). And under those headings I might divide by in-jurisdiction and out of jurisdiction (the latter two aren't as helpful for briefs set in imaginary jurisdictions, but they help me with real cases - you could always divide state/federal). Then I just try to past the case notes under the relevant heading. It's not an outline but it just keeps related stuff together.

SportsFan
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Re: tips for organizing research for brief

Postby SportsFan » Fri Apr 12, 2013 3:51 pm

ph14 wrote:
swtlilsoni wrote:I end up looking through a million cases on Westlaw, and then doing endless searches and rereading cases to look for certain things and it's a mess. Does anyone have any good ideas on keeping the research organized and getting what you need from the cases without wasting too much time going back and forth?


You could try opening a word doc and copy and pasting language or points that you find interesting as you go along, then you have it all there at once when you need to go back and find it.

This is pretty much what I did. I'll write a brief summary of the case and then get some key facts/quotes/rules/etc. If I know how I'm gonna organize my brief, I'll try to organize my research that way too.

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LAWYER2
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Re: tips for organizing research for brief

Postby LAWYER2 » Sat Apr 13, 2013 10:23 pm

The shit I'm about to suggest is pure phucking money when it comes to research projects! I used it to write my AWR paper and I now use it for everything from personal research to memos for my job(s).


http://www.zotero.org/

I will admit, however, there is steep learning curve, but once you get it down packed (took me about 2 hours of watching instructional videos and playing around with it), you'll never-ever look back. I pity my classmates fumbling with manual research and footnotes! This shit is so awesome, if you remove a footnote it automatically adjusts your entire paper and bibliography to comport. It also allows you to capture your current research, add notes and/or tags to find later, automatically puts research in BB Law review (or whatever style you choose) format.

MinEMorris
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Re: tips for organizing research for brief

Postby MinEMorris » Mon Apr 15, 2013 7:25 pm

I just wanted to chime in and add that as you become a more efficient researcher generally, organizing the research you've collected will also become easier. I used to struggle a lot with what you're talking about, and later I realized it was because I didn't know how to research properly. Specifically, I used to spend all of my time reading through primary authority (e.g. cases, statutes). This involved a ton of different searches and endless clicking through citations, constantly hoping for either elaboration or novelty. I was so frequently unsure about the value of cases, and until I did a lot of research, even valuable cases I found might turn out to be valuable for different reasons than I had anticipated or originally noted down. This made it hard to know what sources to take note of and what was relevant to describe about them. All of this frustration largely disappeared for me when I started beginning my research in secondary sources.

Starting in secondary sources makes the research collection process much less painful for a few reasons. First, it narrows down your search by addressing a lot of the preliminary concerns you might have. For example, it will tell you what agency regulates a certain issue, which will save you time clicking through regulations of different agencies, looking for which one is regulating the aspect that you're concerned with. Second, once it narrows down your focus, it points you to key primary sources that will be valuable to you. Even if the secondary source is a little outdated, sheppardizing the cases that it gives will often have you on the right path. Third and finally, it tells you why those sources are valuable and gives you useful categories to organize them in. If the secondary source cites a case under the "standard of review" subsection of a topic, you know it's novel or established for that area of law, and it's easy to create a separate word document or whatever and put the case under a "standard of review" heading with a couple of notes about how it pertains to the heading (e.g. "describes in full").

Most advanced legal research tactics and sources have the same benefits as starting in secondary sources: they narrow your search, direct you to important authority, and make it clear why that authority is important. So not just starting in secondary sources, but working on your research skills in general will help you find the same benefits. HTH.

TLSwag
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Re: tips for organizing research for brief

Postby TLSwag » Wed Apr 17, 2013 9:10 pm

Just advice in general, not even trying to call you out, but even general questions like this violate most school's take-home exam policies.

weatherswaysme
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Re: tips for organizing research for brief

Postby weatherswaysme » Wed Apr 17, 2013 9:15 pm

MinEMorris wrote:I just wanted to chime in and add that as you become a more efficient researcher generally, organizing the research you've collected will also become easier. I used to struggle a lot with what you're talking about, and later I realized it was because I didn't know how to research properly. Specifically, I used to spend all of my time reading through primary authority (e.g. cases, statutes). This involved a ton of different searches and endless clicking through citations, constantly hoping for either elaboration or novelty. I was so frequently unsure about the value of cases, and until I did a lot of research, even valuable cases I found might turn out to be valuable for different reasons than I had anticipated or originally noted down. This made it hard to know what sources to take note of and what was relevant to describe about them. All of this frustration largely disappeared for me when I started beginning my research in secondary sources.

Starting in secondary sources makes the research collection process much less painful for a few reasons. First, it narrows down your search by addressing a lot of the preliminary concerns you might have. For example, it will tell you what agency regulates a certain issue, which will save you time clicking through regulations of different agencies, looking for which one is regulating the aspect that you're concerned with. Second, once it narrows down your focus, it points you to key primary sources that will be valuable to you. Even if the secondary source is a little outdated, sheppardizing the cases that it gives will often have you on the right path. Third and finally, it tells you why those sources are valuable and gives you useful categories to organize them in. If the secondary source cites a case under the "standard of review" subsection of a topic, you know it's novel or established for that area of law, and it's easy to create a separate word document or whatever and put the case under a "standard of review" heading with a couple of notes about how it pertains to the heading (e.g. "describes in full").

Most advanced legal research tactics and sources have the same benefits as starting in secondary sources: they narrow your search, direct you to important authority, and make it clear why that authority is important. So not just starting in secondary sources, but working on your research skills in general will help you find the same benefits. HTH.


This

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A. Nony Mouse
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Re: tips for organizing research for brief

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Wed Apr 17, 2013 10:35 pm

TLSwag wrote:Just advice in general, not even trying to call you out, but even general questions like this violate most school's take-home exam policies.

Briefs aren't usually take-home exams.

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JamMasterJ
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Re: tips for organizing research for brief

Postby JamMasterJ » Wed Apr 17, 2013 10:38 pm

Either do what BlessedAssurance said or just make a table in Word:
Case name (jurisdiction) I whatever's relevant about it

ETA: the "I" was supposed to indicate a line

TLSwag
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Re: tips for organizing research for brief

Postby TLSwag » Thu Apr 18, 2013 12:08 am

A. Nony Mouse wrote:
TLSwag wrote:Just advice in general, not even trying to call you out, but even general questions like this violate most school's take-home exam policies.

Briefs aren't usually take-home exams.


this is untrue for the school OP and I attend.

z0rk
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Re: tips for organizing research for brief

Postby z0rk » Fri Apr 19, 2013 9:20 am

I tend to create a master research document that contains the following for my brief --

--The facts I am working with -- I find its most helpful to start with the facts and actually write out my fact section before conducting research. This keeps me focused on the issues in that fact. It also allows me to edit and perfect the facts as I go along with research (especially when writing a persuasive document.
--I quickly write out/copy and paste the Facts, Holding, and Reasoning (FHR) from each case (its in the syllabus). I then place in bullet points underneath the FHR the salient quotes and points that work for an against me. Sometimes I create a table that has for and against (rarely, must be a controversial opinion or plurality opinion).
-- Blue book cases as you go along, and be really strict about it. This will save you time when you write the brief.
-- Create an automatically updated T.O.C. that is linked to each case header (just so I can find things easily)

Once I have exhausted all research and compiled the above document, I then begin to outline. From there writing the brief is pretty easy, all my research is in place and I can refer back to my notes and cases.

I would urge you to use WestLawNext or Lexis Advanced to save cases to a research folder. This keeps your research in one place that you can refer back to.




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