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RA Survival Guide: Research FAQs

How do I start my research when given a list of material to find?

If your professor has already located a number of sources for you to retrieve and review, follow the steps below to locate the material.


  1. Check our catalog to determine whether we have a copy of that book.  Record the call number (or text it to yourself!) and locate the book either in "Stacks" (Maloney Library - law school building) or "Quinn Annex".   If the book is listed as "Stacks", you can go pull it off the shelf and check it out yourself.
  2. If the location of your book is "Quinn Annex", please speak with someone at the Circulation Desk who will have the book paged for you.  Once it is delivered, you can check it out or consult it in the library.
  3. If you do not find a record for the book in the catalog, check the Fordham University catalog.  If it is listed as being held at the "Quinn - Lincoln Center" library, record that call number and proceed to the Quinn Library to obtain it yourself; if it is listed as being at "Rose Hill" or "Westchester" you need to submit an ILL request for it.
  4. If the Fordham University Libraries do not have a copy either, submit an ILL request for it.


  2. Determine the title of the journal which the article appears in.  This is the title which you will search in our system.   Also ask yourself whether it sounds like a law-related journal, or a non-law related journal.
  3. If it sounds like a law-related journal, use the Fordham Law Library's Journal List to determine if and how we have access to it.  If we have this journal in our collection, you will see a number of links to different databases such as Lexis, Westlaw, HeinOnline, JSTOR, and others giving you a direct link to that journal's collection within those larger databases.  Also be sure to check the listed coverage dates to determine whether your article is covered in that range.
  4. If it sounds like a non-law related journal, use Fordham University Libraries' Journal List and follow the steps as described in #2.
  5. If it appears in neither, now you can Google it to see if it is available in a free resource.
  6. If it does not appear in Google, in Fordham Law's collection, or Fordham University's collection, submit an ILL request for it.

* If the article was recently published (past 1-5 years) in a student-edited law journal, there is a good chance you can get it in PDF form from the journal's website via Google.  However, there are so many exceptions to this that it is still better to go through the Journal List first for efficiency's sake.

How do I start my research when given a broad topic to search within?

Use the "Developing a Research Plan" portion of this guide to help prepare yourself for the search.  Only when you have identified a solid list of relevant keywords should you begin searching the following sources:


The best place to look for books on a topic is our catalog.  You can refine your initial keyword search by using the facets on the left-hand side of the results screen - for example, you can easily limit to only books published before 1970 by selecting "Books" under Format, and using 1970 as the date under "Date Published". Classic Catalog contains the same information, but more easily allows you to search by field -- i.e., title, author, call number.

Many of you will be asked to search for non-law books; to do this, you will need to search the Fordham University Libraries catalog.  Please consult the "How do I request material from a different library?" section for more information on how to obtain material from Fordham University Libraries.

When using the catalogs, remember to use the helpful subject/descriptor headings to locate additional material on the same topic -- these will always appear hyperlinked in the catalog record.  The words used to describe a book in a catalog may be different than the keywords you thought of, so subject/descriptor headings can be extremely useful in refining your searches to locate additional material.


The best way to locate journal articles on a certain topic is to use an index, NOT full-text searching!  Indexes are more valuable and important to scholarly research because they allow you to search ALL journals on a topic instead of just the ones Lexis, Westlaw, JSTOR, etc. subscribe to.  Also, they are indexed by a human so they will have relevant subject headings attached to them which can help you locate and identify additional articles on the same topic.  Remember, when searching an index you can only search the title, author, subject headings and, if there is on, the abstract, so run very basic searches in the index -- it is different than searching full text!

Some Fordham Law subscription indexes you should consult are:

If you are researching a non-legal issue, try Academic Search Complete (Fordham University subscription database), which is essentially a giant index that extends across all disciplines.

How do I access ebooks through the law library?

For information on how to access ebooks through the law library, please see the following research guide: Ebooks at Fordham Law School

Please note: If an Ebook Central title makes you request it before you can read it, that means the library needs to purchase it. Submit your request with your Fordham email address and note the professor you are working for. A librarian will review the request and will process it as soon as possible. If you have any ebook questions, please contact Jennifer Dixon (

How do I request material from a different library?

Fordham Law Library has an extensive collection of legal materials, however, from time to time  your research may require material we do not own.  The Interlibrary Loan (ILL) department will attempt to obtain this material from another institution.  The system we use to submit requests for books and journal articles not included in our collection is called Law ILLiad.  It is very important that you submit all your requests through the Law Library's interlibrary loan system; when in doubt, go to the law library's homepage and click "Interlibrary Loan" to ensure you are using the correct system.


You can request any book or journal article that we do not have in our collection.  Prior to making a request through ILL please check the the title of the book  in the Fordham University Law School Catalog and the Fordham University Catalog , or the title of the journal the article appears in against our Journal List and the University's Journal List to see if the material is owned by one of the Fordham libraries. 

What you may request through Law ILLiad:

  • Books from other libraries outside of Fordham University;
  • Books from the Fordham University Libraries at the Bronx and Westchester Campus;
  • Articles in journals that either the Law School or the University library does not subscribe to.

What you should not request through Law ILLiad:

  • Books located in the Law Library.
  • Books from the Quinn Library (the Fordham University Library at the Lincoln Center Campus) - you can check books out from the Quinn with your own Fordham ID, or with your RA card if you have borrowing privileges under your Professor's name.
  • Articles available through free online sources (i.e. SSRN, Google Scholar, law school journals' own website)


Create a Law ILLIad patron account via the following steps:

  • Proceed to the Law ILLiad site. 
  • Click on “First Time User Registration.”
  • Carefully read the information.
  • Fill out the requested information as completely as possible.
  • Create your own username and password.

Once you have created a Law ILLiad account, request items in the following format:

  • If you are requesting a book, click on the "Request a Book" link and fill in at a minimum the following information:
    • Title
    • Author
    • Year/edition
    • ISBN if at all possible (without dashes or spaces)
    • OCLC accession number if known
    • If Fordham University has a copy of it, include that in the "notes" field
  • If you are requesting an article or pages from a book, click on the "Request a Photocopy" link and fill in at a minimum the following information:
    • Title of the Journal in which the article appears
    • Volume number of the journal in which your article appears
    • Page range of the article
    • Year article appeared
    • Article's author
    • Article's title
    • ISSN, once again if possible and without dashes or spaces
    • OCLC accession number if known
  • If you are requesting a chapter or pages from a book, click on the “Request a Book Chapter” link and fill in at a minimum the following information:
    • Book Title
    • Year/edition
    • Inclusive Pages
    • Chapter Author
    • Chapter Title

Please note that you are responsible for all material charged out to your account, so do not give ILL material to anyone else - if your professor wants to have a book that you requested through your Law ILLiad account, a new request has to be made under the professor’s account. DO NOT transfer any books requested under your account to your professor.

Please note that during the Covid-19 crisis our ability to retrieve books will be limited. It is strongly suggested that whenever possible, people should request pages and chapters of books, rather than books themselves

How do I conduct scholarly research?

Click here for a short video tutorial on "How to Conduct Scholarly Research."

How do I find statistics, data, and/or datasets?

Click here for a short video tutorial on "How to find statistic, data, and/or datasets."

Please also feel free to reach out to our empirical legal research specialist, Alissa Black-Dorward.

How do I find tax-related information?

Click here for a short video tutorial on "How to find tax-related information."

Please also feel free to reach out to our current tax research specialist, Gail McDonald, for more information.

How do I find international resources?

International legal research usually refers to issues involving the law between nations -- so if your professor asks you to research how different countries behave on a global stage, you will need to perform international legal research.

There are two main types of international law - public and private.   Public international law is that which governs the relations between or among nations, while private international law concerns disputes between private parties in which the laws, jurisdiction or court judgments of more than one jurisdiction or country are implicated.  If your professor wants you to research a topic involving treaties, United Nations, human rights, international courts, or something else that sounds like it would affect a federal government but not individual citizens, it is most likely a public international law issue.  If your professor wants you to research arbitration, international business transactions, or transnational litigation, it is most likely a private international law issue.

For all international law issues, the best place to start is by familiarizing yourself with the topic.  There are two great sources; when you're first starting out, check both.  1) Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law (FLS subscription database).  Search for your topic in the "quick search" box or browse topics by subject.  Articles provide commentary and analysis on a number of topics, links you to relevant primary sources of law, and have helpful bibliographies at the end of each article to point you to other relevant journal articles and books on that topic.  Tends to be more scholarly and in-depth than 2) GlobaLex.  Select "International Law" for any topic from fisheries to space law.  These articles tend to offer broader overviews and tell what what documents are produced and how to find them. 

Here are some powerpoints from our former Professor Shea's Advanced Legal Research: International and Foreign Legal Research class that may be useful:

Please feel free to reach out to our Foreign and International Law Librarian, Janet Kearney.

How do I find foreign laws?

Foreign legal research refers to locating the domestic law of foreign countries.  So, if a professor asks you to research Cambodian laws, you will need to perform foreign legal research.

Comparative legal research refers to comparing laws on a single topic in a number of different jurisdictions.  So, if a professor asks you to research disability laws of Asian countries, you will need to perform comparative legal research which will involve you locating a number of foreign laws on a single topic.

By far, the best sources to start with are Foreign Law Guide (FLS subscription database) and GlobaLex (free) - simply find your country in either of these sources and read about the history and organization of its legal system, information on key laws in certain topic areas, and links to places you can find that country's legal information online.

Here are some powerpoints from our former Professor Shea's Advanced Legal Research: International and Foreign Legal Reserach class that may be useful:

Please also feel free to reach out to our Foreign and International Law Librarian, Janet Kearney.

How do I start my research when I have no idea where to start?

Contact a librarian

Seriously.  We want to help you.

If you'd like to reach out to your faculty member's dedicated library liaison, a listing of liaisons can be found here.