Searching for Primary Law in the UNC Library Catalog

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If you’re looking to locate a primary law source — statutes, regulations, court records, etc. — in the library, you may wind up searching in the UNC libraries catalog. If you’ve done this in the past, you know it can be tricky to find the right resource. We've put together an instructional video with a few surefire tips to help you track down primary law resources in the catalog.

We have also collected the tips from the video below:

Tip #1: Don’t put the title of your search in quotation marks.

Normally, searching for the title of the resource you’re looking for is a great idea; the catalog will recognize the title you’re looking for and even auto-fill your search for you. But, for primary law, the actual name in the catalog is often slightly different than you would expect, which may lead to a failed search even if the resource you’re looking for is in the catalog!

Tip #2: Make smart use of filters.

Primary law searches in the catalog often lead to an overwhelming number of results. Smart use of filters can help narrow down your search to a manageable number. The following filters are especially helpful:

  • Filter the “Library Location” to “Law Library"
  • Filter the “Subject” to “Law"
  • For state materials, filter the “Author” to the name of the state whose resources you are looking for. For example, if looking for the California Code, filter the author to “California.”

Tip #3: Pay attention to the listed date of the resource.

The catalog may contain superseded statutes or rules, but if you’re looking for up-to-date resources your search results can become clogged. One thing to look out for is the date listed in the catalog. The date of updated statutes will be open ended, like “1949-“, while older resources will often have closed dates, like “1978-2001.”

Tip #4: Know the name of the common publishers.

Especially for state statutes, most of the print resources are published by the same few companies. If your search and filters are still bringing up too many results, try filtering the “author” section even further by selecting West Publishing or LexisNexis.

Posted by Andrew J. Wisniewsky on Wed. October 20, 2021 3:00 PM
Categories: Uncategorized

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