Thursday, October 18, 2012

Zimmerman's Research Guide

Zimmerman's Research GuideZimmerman's Research Guide bills itself as an "online legal research encyclopedia." The Guide was created by law librarian Andrew Zimmerman more than a decade ago. It started as a collection of resources that he himself found useful when doing legal research. Over the years, it has expanded to cover a wide range of sources. Currently, Zimmerman encourages other librarians to contribute to the Guide, with corrections, additions, and comments.

This is not a how-to website for legal research. Rather, it lists available resources on many different topics - just over one thousand! The entries generally fall into one of three categories: a jurisdiction, including states, foreign countries, and even some cities; a specific resource, like "tax forms" or "obituaries;" or an area of law, like "antitrust."

The Guide is now hosted by LexisNexis, under the publisher's "InfoPro" brand. Unsurprisingly, this means the website has some marketing material for LexisNexis' products. However, the actual content of the Guide includes resources published by other vendors, showing no bias toward Lexis. For instance, the entry for "Legal Research Guides" mentions two books published by West, and no LexisNexis books at all. Many of the entries include links to government information and other free resources, making this a useful resource for people needing to do research without spending money. 

For sources on Westlaw Classic and Lexis, the Guide gives the appropriate database identifiers to find the specific resource. Unfortunately, there is no deep linking into WestlawNext or Lexis Advance (which may not even be possible.) It will be interesting to see what happens when the prior generation of databases is finally phased out.

The legal research universe is so vast that not even the best legal researcher can always remember all of the sources available on a topic. Zimmerman's Research Guide is a great place to go to get a feel for where to start your legal research.

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