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Vermont Legal Research for Non-lawyers

Step 1

Consider whether your research question involves an illegal activity, or if there is a legal task to be completed.

For example:

"My family member was arrested for DUI" has to do with alleged crime and illegal activity.

"I need to update my will" is a task related to the topic of estate planning.

To begin figuring this out, consider the following questions:

1. In what different ways can I describe this legal question, problem, or task that I want to accomplish?

Example: Jerome wants to research the law as it applies to stray dogs. He could search for related terms: dog, canine, K9, pooch, hound; specific breeds of dog: German Shepherd, Beagle; broader terms: animals, livestock, guard dog.

 

2. What terminology is used for this concept in legal documents? Pay attention to the ways that legal documents refer to key concepts related to your question, and keep track of these terms.

Example: Millie is investigating whether her neighbor has a right to burn garbage on his property. As she begins searching for relevant information, she notices that some of the documents she finds mention terms such as: active waste, disposal, air pollution, land pollution, trash pull. She notes these, and uses some of them to search for more information about her topic.

 

Tip: Make a list for the answers to both questions. These words and related terms and phrases will help you clarify your research question.