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Cornell Library at Vermont Law & Graduate School

Food and Agriculture Law and Policy Research Guide: Research Methods - Start here!

Search Terms - A Sampling

Research in agriculture or food law is rarely restricted to a single topic. Finding related material is often necessary. Starting broad is a good idea at the beginning of your research. But the sooner you can narrow your search terms, the quicker you’ll be begin to find meaningful sources related to your topic.

Some suggested search terms are noted below. Synonyms are also helpful.

  • Agricultural ... Conservation or Ecology or Industries or Laborers, or Innovation or Laws & Legislation or Pollution or Productivity, etc. 
  • Agroforestry
  • Animal... Law or Welfare or Feeding (or corn or soy or grain or antibiotics) or Industry
  • CAFOs
  • Factory Farms
  • Chickens or Broilers or Layers or Chicks
  • Swine or Hogs or Pigs or Sows or Boars
  • Gestation crates or Confinement
  • De-beaking or De-horning
  • Farm ... Bill or Law or Markets or Animals or Land or Produce, etc.
  • Farmers, Farmers Markets
  • Food ... Law or Regulation or Justice or Labeling Adulteration or Re-calls or Fraud or Quality or Supply or Safety or Systems or Standards, etc.
  • FSMA
  • Land Use, Rural 
  • Livestock or Cattle or Cow or Calf
  • Organic Farming
  • Sustainable Agriculture
  • Water in Agriculture or Water Supply, Agricultural
  • Various Food and Agriculture terms along with issues of interest such as  Labor, Climate Change, Equity, Environmental Justice,  Animal Law, Energy, Environmental Health, Waste, Fraud, etc. 
  • Abbreviations of laws such as FSMA, SHPA, PPIA, etc. 


The National Agricultural Library's Thesaurus and Glossary with definitions may also be helpful. 

Research Methods

Food and Agriculture Law and Policy research often involves researching related areas including water quality and resources, land use, biotechnology, energy, health law, farm animals, agricultural business, food labeling, agritourism, food labeling, climate change, etc.

Administrative law / regulations at both the federal and state level are  especially important.

When conducting research, it is often best to start with secondary sources such as books, ebooks, journal and law review articles, and news articles which provide context as well as references to primary law. There are also numerous websites that provide background information and links to other resources. 

The challenge is to locate and use relevant information in a timely and effective manner. This Guide will lead you to a great many useful resources.


Web Sites

For locating relevant free web sites,  even better than Google (according to some!) is the use of a resource that focuses on carefully selected web sites organized by topic. One such source, broken down by category in the Web Sites section of this Guide, is Vermont Law and Graduate School Library’s  Environmental Law Research Sources.  This is a collection of more than  500 free websites, with descriptions, selected in consultation with faculty, students and alumni.  Categories include: Agriculture Law, Food Law, Environmental Justice, Health Law, Water Law and Policy, Environmental Dispute Resolution, Municipal Codes, Climate Change, Energy, Land Use, Endangered Species/Wildlife Biodiversity, Oceans/Marine Law, Science Sources, International Environmental Law, etc.

Research Strategy

There are numerous ways to begin research, depending on the issue at hand, the purpose of the research, and the knowledge and skills of the researcher. 

Take the time to develop an effective research strategy by brainstorming search terms, making a preliminary list potentially useful primary and secondary sources, and keeping track of your research.

A recommended approach is to begin with secondary sources for background information to put your issue into context and to discover cites to primary sources.

Secondary Sources

In addition to books and to the resources on Westlaw and Lexis, other secondary sources are helpful. Among the databases most frequently used for food and agriculture law research are: Agricultural & Environmental Science Collection, Gale OneFile Agriculture, Ebook Central, GreenWire, Environment Complete, JSTOR, and Statista.  

These and additional databases are listed in the Databases section of this Guide.

Environmental Law Librarian/Associate Professor

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