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Law Subject Guide: StartingTips

Tools for Brainstorming Topics, e.g., First Amendment (U.S. Constitution)

Research Tips

  • When searching, put quotation marks around phrases or multiple part names (example: "death penalty", "Redgranite Correctional Institute")


  • Use truncation or wildcard symbols (* ! ?) to search multiple word endings (example: prison* returns prisons, prisoners)


  • Focus or limit a database search by language (English) or to peer-reviewed materials:


  • Save the complete source / citation information for articles and books (write down, download/save, email or print) to include in your bibliography
  • Log research efforts and save research notes and printouts together in one spot

Creating a Search Strategy

The first step in the research process is to create a search strategy or research plan.

  • Define your research topic: Come up with a sentence and/or question that defines your research topic
  • Describe your topic using keywords: Select the main concepts or "keywords" that represent or describe your research topic.
  • Think of synonyms: or alternate words for the keywords that you have selected (example: death penalty OR capital punishment)
  • Combine keywords: Come up with a good starting search for your topic by combining your keywords with "and" (example: gangs and prison)

Once you have a set of keywords and a good search statement, you are ready to begin looking for articles and books.

      Background Info. & Research Ideas: CQ.Researcher

      In addition to your course readings and discussions, other sources can help you learn more about a topic you are exploring. Visit the reference room of the UWM Libraries, or try out this tool called CQ Researcher.

      CQ Researcher provides in-depth reports on political and social issues.  Each report :

      • Is about the length of a news magazine, but it only covers one topic in-depth
      • Is useful for getting a very quick, brief snapshot of the history of an issue and ideas for further exploration
      • Has an excellent bibliography section for some “hand-picked” links to more information

      CQ Researcher can help you identify an interesting research topic.

      • Select "Browse by Topic" and select Constitutional Law and Justice, then select from Crime and Law Enforcement, Sentencing and Corrections, etc.