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Using the Internet for Legal Research

Prepared by Diane Murley, SIU Law Library — Spring 2004

A.     General Search Engines, Web Directories, and Other Research Tools

Search Engines and Web Directories

Search engines are websites that you can use to find information on the Internet. When you run a search at one of these sites, you are actually searching an enormous database that has been electronically created by software, called a crawler, that automatically queries computers on the Internet. How frequently a website is checked depends on the search engine and the site being queried. So your search results will depend on how the web pages existed the last time the search engine checked a certain site, not how they exist at the time of your search. That is why you will sometimes retrieve links to pages that are no longer available or relevant, or not retrieve pages that are very new.

Web directories are collections of links to websites that have been selected and categorized, at least in part, by human beings. You can browse a directory's hierarchies of categories and subcategories simply by clicking on links. You can browse to a certain level in the hierarchy and then search that level, or you can search to find a subcategory and then browse that subcategory.

Many search engines now also include a searchable directory, and many directories also have a web search engine. When you use a search engine to do a web search, you are searching the full text of the web pages in the search engine's database. When you search a directory, you are searching only the links and descriptions contained in the directory, not the full text of the documents linked. A web directory is like a detailed table of contents in a book. A search engine database is more like an index, but an index that includes references for nearly every word in the book.

There are many search engines and directories available on the web. Some of the highest-rated are Ask, Google, Infomine, Librarians' Index to the Internet, and Yahoo!. Different search engines return better results for some kinds of searches than others. If one search engine returns too few or too many hits, try another. In fact, given the limitations of the search engines and the size of the web, you should run your search in at least two search engines unless you are absolutely certain you have found everything you need. It is also a good idea to check the search tips or help screens for the search engine you are using to be sure you have composed a search that is likely to produce good results.

Search engines come and go. Even when they stay, they may change their databases or the algorithms that determine the results your search will produce. Usually these changes are improvements. If your favorite search engine disappears or no longer seems to be working as well as it once did, you can find comprehensive, current information and recommendations about search engines at Greg Notess, Search Engine Showdown: The Users' Guide to Web Searching, http://www.searchengineshowdown.com/ (accessed Jan. 15, 2007) and Search Engine Watch: Tips About Internet Search Engines & Search Engine Submission, http://www.searchenginewatch.com/ (accessed Jan. 15, 2007).

Most of the search engines discussed below permit use of the Boolean connectors AND, OR, and NOT between the words of your search and allow you to use parentheses to construct complex searches. Most also recognize quotation marks around phrases, use of the + (plus sign) or – (minus sign) to require or exclude a word, respectively, and wildcards to replace one or more letters in a search term.

More and more search engines now use "paid placement," as well as more traditional advertising, to help defray costs. Paid placement refers to a search engine's selling to the highest bidder the top spots on the search results page. Some search engines are more straightforward about this practice than others. We will review some examples below. When looking at a screen of search results, be aware of the different types of information being presented.

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Ask has a smaller index of web pages than Google, AllTheWeb.com, and some of the other large search engines. However, it has an excellent reputation for relevancy and two unique features. When you run a search on Ask, your results page will have three sections. In addition to authoritative web page "Results" relevant to your search, Ask's "Refine" section frequently has suggestions to narrow your search to more specific topics or expand it to related topics. There is also a "Resources" section that lists web pages containing collections of links about general subjects related to your search.

The pages listed under Resources are compiled by topic experts and enthusiasts from around the world. In addition, they often categorize and provide editorial comments on the web links they list, serving as information resource pages. This is part of the Ask's use of authority to retrieve the most relevant documents. Ask has named this approach "Subject-Specific Popularity." Instead of ranking results based upon the sites with the most links leading to them, as many of the main search engines do, Ask looks at the web "communities" that are about or related to the same subject to determine which sites are most relevant. In other words, Ask ranks a site based on the number of same-subject pages that link to it, not just general popularity.

Ask's default is to return only documents that contain all of your search terms unless you have used an OR to indicate alternative terms or a minus sign (–) to specify terms to be excluded. You can use quotation marks or hyphens to require that your search terms appear as a phrase. On the advanced search screen, you can use drop-down boxes to choose a search for all the words or an exact phrase; to indicate words or phrases that must appear, must not appear, or should appear in the results; to require that the search terms appear anywhere on the page, in the page title, or in the URL; and to limit by language, domain, site, geographic region, or date.

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Google was the first search engine to rank pages according to how many other pages link to it, the words used as a link to the page, and how authoritative those linking pages are. Now, many search engines have incorporated this mechanism into their page-ranking algorithms.

Google's default search is for pages that contain all of your search terms. Google's default search does recognize use of the minus sign to exclude terms and quotation marks to require a phrase.

The Advanced Search page has a number of boxes that you fill in to indicate that you want Google to find results with all of the words, with any of the words, with the exact phrase, or without the words. You can also fill in boxes to indicate that you want your search terms to appear anywhere in the page, in the title, in the text, in the URL, or in links to the page; to restrict results to a specific language, date, or file format; or to return results only from a specific site or domain.

A Google results page has a link to each page retrieved, a snippet of the page with search terms bolded, and the URL. Following each result, you may find links to categories from Open Directory; to automated searches for similar pages or more results from the same site; and to cached pages. The cached pages can be useful for two reasons. First, they display with your search terms highlighted, making it easier to zero in on the relevant part of the document. Second, if the website containing your document is down, or the document has been removed, you can still retrieve the document.

Google identifies its paid placements as Sponsored Links and displays them in a bar at the top or boxes to the right of the other results. At the bottom of the results page is a link to "Search within results." Click on the link before typing your narrowing search terms.

Google also has special search pages for Images on the web, usenet discussion forums or Groups, its Directory, and Google News.

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Infomine is a multi-subject directory created and maintained by academic librarians at the University of California, Riverside, using library catalogs as a model. It has a sophisticated search engine that gives the researcher many options. The default search retrieves documents containing all the search terms, but the OR and NOT connectors can be used. Infomine allows you to use parentheses to construct complex searches, recognizes quotation marks as requiring a phrase search and NEAR as requiring a proximity search, and uses the asterisk (*) for truncation.

Even using the basic search, you can limit your search to an exact, complete term or phrase in the main fields of a document (subject, title, author, or keyword). For example, |states| would search for states but not United States, and |new mexico| would search for New Mexico, but not University of New Mexico.

The Advanced Search page allows you to limit by field, subject, and resource type, and to set display and ranking options. The Advanced Search page also has links to browseable lists of subject headings, keywords, authors, titles, and more.

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Librarians' Index to the Internet


Librarians' Index to the Internet is searchable, annotated, multi-subject directory created and maintained by public librarians. LII's motto is "Information You Can Trust," and their weeding program limits dead links to a very small percentage of the sites included. (Librarians' Index to the Internet is not connected with Legal Information Institute, the other LII, discussed below.)

LII's default search only retrieves documents containing all the search terms, unless you use an OR or NOT connector. You can use parentheses to construct complex searches, quotation marks to specify a phrase search, and the asterisk (*) for truncation. On the Advanced Search page, you can limit your search to specified fields or link to a browseable list of subject headings.

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Yahoo! was the original web directory, with websites evaluated by human editors and included in a searchable directory by category. The Yahoo! Directory is now only a small part of what is available from the front page.

Top and center is a web search box, now using Yahoo! Search Technology, which ranks web pages by "analyzing document features, including text, title and description accuracy, source, associated links, and other unique document characteristics." The Yahoo! Search default is to retrieve only pages that contain all search terms, but it does recognize OR as specifying alternative terms. The search engine also recognizes quotation marks as calling for a phrase and the + or – as requiring or excluding a word, respectively.

The Advanced Search page uses boxes that you fill in to indicate that you want Yahoo! to find results with all of the words, with any of the words, with the exact phrase, or none of the words, appearing anywhere in the page, in the title, or in the URL; and to restrict results to a specific date, site or domain, file format, country, or language. You can also change the number of documents displayed on results pages.

The front page has separate tabs for Image, Yellow Pages, and Product searches. To search just the Directory, you must go to the Search home page, http://search.yahoo.com/, or to the Directory home page, http://dir.yahoo.com/, neither of which is linked directly from the front page.

Besides the web search box, the front page has dozens of links to Yahoo! Network features and services, which, according to Yahoo! are intended to "allow[] you to do anything you want on the web.

Yahoo! results pages begin with Inside Yahoo!, which includes anyYahoo! features or services that match. Next come category matches from the Yahoo! Directory, followed by website matches. Sponsor results may appear above or within the web results or in shaded boxes to the right; in all three positions they are clearly identified as such.

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Meta-Search Engines

There are search engines that don't directly search the web, but search other search engines. These are known as meta-search engines. Some examples are Vivisimo, http://vivisimo.com/, and Dogpile, http://www.dogpile.com/. A good meta-search engine should do more than just list results from other search engines.

For example, Vivisimo ranks its results by the combined scores of the search engines that retrieved each item. It also shows the ranking by each search engine. Sponsored links are identified as such and grouped at the top of the list in shaded boxes. In a frame to the left of the combined search results, Vivisimo clusters the results into category folders and subfolders. A special search box in the cluster frame allows searchers to search within the clusters.

Dogpile allows the searcher to view the results by relevance or by search engine. In both views, each sponsored link is identified as such, but interspersed within the results list. Dogpile also provides a column of clustered results. It does not at the time of this writing have a feature for searching within the original results.

In general, you enter your search terms, and the meta-search engine translates your query into the search language of each search engine and runs simultaneous searches in a number of search engines. You have some options over which search engines will be used, the search mode, and what part of the Internet will be searched.

When you use a meta-search engine, you should keep your search query simple. If you use a connector or limiter that an individual search engine does not recognize, it will return no results, even if it has indexed pages that meet your criteria. These meta-search engines are helpful if you just need to find some information on a certain topic, but if you are looking for a specific document, you will probably be better served by the precision of a specific search site, such as those discussed in this article.

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Historical Web Research

The Internet Archive, http://www.archive.org/, is a growing digital collection of Internet sites and other cultural artifacts in digital form. Using a search engine named the "WayBack Machine," researchers can see how the web page at a certain URL looked on previous dates. Simply enter the URL and click on the "Take Me Back" button. The WayBack Machine displays a list of dates for which archived copies of that page are available. The Internet Archive can also be helpful if a site is down or the page you want has been removed from the site.

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The Invisible Web

The search engines discussed above are so good, and the visible web is so large, that it may seem you would need nothing else to meet all of your research needs. In fact, the visible web accounts for only a small percentage of all information available on the web.

What is the Invisible Web? The short definition is that the invisible web is all the web content not included in general search engines and web directories. The authors of The Invisible Web: Uncovering Information Sources Search Engines Can't See estimated in 2001 that the invisible web was between two and fifty times larger than the visible web.

Among the types of information that are not indexed by general search engines and web directories, for various reasons, are the following:

  • pages to which no other pages links – the search engine's crawler can't find them without links to follow;
  • pages from which crawlers are blocked by the webmaster, using Robots Exclusion Protocol or passwords;
  • images, audio, and video – there is usually not enough text to index;
  • non-HTML text file types that are difficult for search engines to index (PDF, Postscript, Flash, Shockwave, programs, compressed files) – indexing is time-consuming and costly, and until recently documents available in these file types were not relevant to many researchers;
  • databases that generate dynamic pages based on information the user enters into a form – the crawlers can't fill out forms; even if they could, the specialized query tools would still be the best way for obtaining the data;
  • dynamic pages generated by a non-interactive script – e.g., "on the fly" customized pages for individual users, of which there is no need to index; there are also cost and security reasons that search engines avoid such pages;
  • real time data, e.g., weather, stock quotes, or flight arrival times – it would be costly to index this constantly changing data, and it is so ephemeral that it would not be very useful once it was outdated;
  • pages that fall within two or more of these types.

But if they are invisible, how are you supposed to find these resources? If you use any of the current awareness tools discussed in Introduction to the Internet, you will probably hear about many helpful sites you might not otherwise find. Many of the sites we have recommended in these pages fall within the invisible web. If you take advantage of some of the current awareness resources we have listed at the ends of chapters, you will read reviews of websites on the visible and invisible web.

Some of the best directories to Invisible Web resources include:

  • Chris Sherman and Gary Price, The Invisible Web: Uncovering Information Sources Search Engines Can't See (CyberAge Books 2001). See also the companion site at http://www.invisible-web.net/ (accessed Mar. 16, 2004).
  • Librarians' Index to the Internet at http://www.lii.org/ (accessed Jan. 15, 2007).

In fact, you have already used resources within the invisible web if you have:

  • used a library catalog on the web;
  • looked up a zip code at ZIP+4 Code Look-up;
  • found a telephone number using Switchboard or AnyWho;
  • obtained a map or driving directions from Mapblast or Mapquest;
  • researched publicly traded company filings at FreeEDGAR; or
  • checked the weather at Weather.com.

There is no reason you can't apply your experience with these invisible web resources to your research. It just takes practice and a willingness to stay informed.

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B.     Legal Search Engines, Web Directories, and Other Research Tools

Most of the legal research tools discussed in this subpart are set up primarily as indexes or directories, rather than as search engines, although you can usually search the site itself.

American Law Sources On-line


ALSO! is a compilation of links to freely accessible on-line sources of law for the United States and Canada, plus links to sources of commentary and practice aids that are available without charge (or available at a reasonable charge from governmental and nonprofit providers). For United States materials there are pages of links and search boxes for the federal government; each U.S. state and territory; Interstate, Multistate, and Boundary Compacts; and Uniform Laws. For Canadian materials, there are links to the federal government and each province.

Electronic Reference Desk


The MacMillan Law Library at Emory School of Law makes this research aid available. Find Law by Jurisdiction or by Subject, consult Reference Materials and Research Guides, or browse several other categories of legal information. You can also search the Electronic Reference Desk itself.

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Findlaw has a lot of information on its front page, with portals for Legal Professionals, for Students, for Business, for Corporate Counsel, and for the Public. There are also sections for legal news and legal analysis, search tabs to Find a Lawyer, Search FindLaw, Search News, Search Cases and Codes, and links to pages with even more information.

GPO Access


The U.S. Government Printing Office provides free electronic access to important information products produced by the federal government. The information provided on this site is the official, published version and can be used without restriction. Resources are arranged by branch of U.S. government, Legislative, Executive, Judicial, and by topic. Also includes A-Z Resource List of all official resources available on GPO Access.

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Hieros Gamos


Hieros Gamos bills itself as the #1 Legal Research Center, and it is a gold mine of links to U.S. law, both federal and state, foreign and international law, legal associations, and directories. There are also several portals, including a Legal Business Center, Legal Employment Center, Law Practice Center, Law Student Center, Law Events & Library Center, and Law Consumer Center. The Library Center includes links to dictionaries and other reference sources, legal forms, and law journals. The Law Practice Center includes Law and Government Resources for 230 Countries on over 70 primary practice areas which are further broken out into 130 additional areas. Hieros Gamos is available in English, French, German, Italian, and Spanish.

Internet Legal Resource Guide


ILRG is a categorized index of more than 4000 select websites in 238 nations, islands, and territories, with an emphasis on the United States, as well as thousands of locally stored web pages, legal forms, and downloadable files. It is intended for use by lay persons and legal scholars alike, and is quality controlled to include only the most substantive legal resources online.

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Law and Policy Institutions Guide


LPI staff review and evaluate the sites included in this Guide. In addition to domestic legal topics, the site provides information on international law, including significant international treaties, journals, and foreign country legal databases. Browse by category or search LPIG to find selected links, each accompanied by a brief commentary. Inclusion is based on four criteria: quality, accuracy of content, presentation, and utility.

Legal Information Institute


The Legal Information Institute at Cornell Law School provides links to federal, state, foreign and international legal materials. LII's version of the U.S. Code is generated from the most recent version made available by the US House of Representatives. There is an update feature available in each section, which integrates the services of the House site and of the Library of Congress Thomas site. You can also find the Code of Federal Regulations, Federal Rules of Evidence and Civil Procedure, and links to many other legal resources. There is a search box for searching the LII topical pages. (Legal Information Institute is not connected with Librarians' Index to the Internet, the other LII, discussed above.)



Access lexisONE free resources, including cases, forms, legal news, a Legal Website Directory with links to thousands of law-related websites, and Zimmerman's Research Guides, a collection of short narrative guides on various research topics. The site also has links to LexisNexis for-fee resources.



USA.gov is the U.S. Government's Official web portal. It is a specialized search engine that indexes pages in all .gov domains. Because of its narrow focus, it can include pages that are not indexed by general search engines. Tabs present different services and topics for different audiences: Citizens, Businesses and Nonprofits, Federal Employees, and Government-to-Government. A menu bar organizes information alphabetically by agency; on federal executive, legislative, and judicial pages; with an alphabetical list of cross-agency portals; on state, local, and tribal government pages; in "Contact Your Government" and "Reference Center" collection of links. There is also a site search engine with limits for Federal Only, Federal & All States, All States, One State, or Federal & One State.

WashLaw Web


The WashLaw Web at Washburn University School of Law is a large table of categories of legal and law-related information. It is very easy to browse through these links to find the information you need. You can also search the site.

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C.     Other Law-Related Sites You Should Know



LLRX.com is a free web journal dedicated to providing legal and other professionals with the most up-to-date information on a wide range of Internet research and technology-related issues, applications, resources and tools. It publishes monthly installments of new articles, guides and topical resources. The archives include Resource Centers on Comparative and Foreign Law, International Law, Intranets and Knowledge Management, Marketing, Presentations and Training, Search Engines, and State and Federal Legislation.



This blog is also available as an RSS news feed. It highlights new and useful websites and search tools, industry news, full-text documents, and other resources of interest to the online researcher. You can also subscribe to a weekly Weblog "Highlights" Mailing List.

The Virtual Chase—Teaching Legal Professionals How to Do Research


The Virtual Chase website was designed to help legal professionals conduct research on the Internet. It includes research articles, tips, guides, and TVC Alert, a free research news feed or e-mail newsletter. The How to Research and Information Quality sections are especially helpful.

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D.     Finding and Evaluating Legal Information

There are three main ways to find something on the Internet. A single research session can involve one or all of these methods.

  1. You can use a search engine.
  2. You can start at a good legal research site and follow links to the file you want. This is sometimes referred to as surfing or browsing. Some examples of good starting points were discussed above.
  3. You may have the URL directly to a file you want because someone told you about the site or you read an article that mentioned it. If you use any of the current awareness tools discussed in Introduction to the Internet: Current Awareness Tools, you will probably hear about many good Internet sites.

Internet legal research should be done with the understanding that only a small subset of legal materials are available on the Internet. Primary legal resources, such as case opinions, statutes, and regulations, did not begin to appear on the Internet until the mid-1990s. Very few older sources have been added.

When you find information on the Internet, whether it is legal or non-legal information, you need to evaluate it for quality, reliability, and currency. Most of the government agencies placing information on the Internet cannot afford the quality control necessary to guarantee accuracy and completeness. You will frequently find warnings on government pages to the effect that the information is made available as a public service, but it should not be relied upon unless it is confirmed by checking the official publication.

You should also evaluate information you find on the Internet for reliability. Ask yourself who is making the information available. What are their credentials? Is it an official source, or at least a reliable source, or is it someone whose bias may affect the accuracy or reliability of the information? If you cannot tell from the web page who is responsible for the information, you should hesitate to use it unless you can otherwise confirm its reliability.

You must also evaluate information for currency. When was the web page you are using last updated? Primary legal information made available for free by the government is frequently out of date. You should be able to tell from a good website when it was last updated. If there is no statement about currency, you will have to find a way to be sure your information is up to date.

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E.     Links, Bookmarks, and URLs

Most web pages contain hypertext links to other pages on the same or distant computers. The links are frequently underlined text in blue or another contrasting color. However, anything on the page can be a link, including graphics. On a well-designed web page, the links will be obvious. To identify the links, use your mouse to point at the text or graphic. If the arrow changes to a hand pointing, it is pointing at a link. Click once to go to the linked page.

Once you find a website that will help you in your research, you may want to bookmark it or add it to your list of favorites, so that you won't have to search for it again. With Netscape, you can add an Internet address to your bookmarks by clicking on Bookmarks and choosing Add Bookmark. If you use Internet Explorer, click on Favorites and choose Add to Favorites. Both browsers allow you to organize your bookmarks into folders. It is a good idea to review your bookmarks occasionally and delete those that are no longer useful. To organize or delete bookmarks on Netscape, click on Bookmarks, then Edit Bookmarks. On Internet Explorer, click on Favorites, then Organize Favorites.

After adding a bookmark or favorite, check it by clicking on Bookmark or Favorite and then on the bookmark you just added. Some websites are set up so that the displayed address, and therefore the address that will be saved as a bookmark, does not change when you click on a link at that site, even if the link is to a web page on a completely different computer network.

For example, if I connect to the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws web page at the University of Pennsylvania's Biddle Law Library, http://www.law.upenn.edu/bll/ulc/ulc_frame.htm, the displayed address will continue to be http://www.law.upenn.edu/bll/ulc/ulc_frame.htm regardless of which link I follow from the right frame, despite the fact that each of the pages to which I connect has its own file name. Furthermore, the displayed address does not change even if I click on a link to a website that is not on the University of Pennsylvania system.

If the URL displayed does not change when you go to a web page that you want to bookmark, go back to the message or page that contained the link to the website you want to bookmark. With most browsers today, if you right click on a link, you will be given the option to Open it in a New Window. If you choose that option, your browser will launch another instance of your browser, and the page will fill the entire window, showing the direct URL to that page. You can then bookmark the page you want, instead of some framing page.

Right clicking on the link and opening the page in a new window is also a good way to compare two or more web pages, or to keep a starting page of links handy as you explore the links one by one.

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Sometimes you will have a URL that doesn't work. It may be a URL that worked for you at one time, or it may be a URL that you just heard about. When that happens, take note of the error message your browser gives you. If the message is that the site could not be found, and you have double-checked that you typed it correctly, the site may be temporarily unavailable. If you continue to receive this message day after day, or if you can't wait for the site to become available, you will have to use another method to find the file you want.

If the error message is that the requested file could not be found on the server, you may be able to tinker with the URL to find the file you want.

Domain names are covered in Introduction to the Internet: Addresses and Domain Names. Now let's look at the URL in its entirety. In the URL for Southern Illinois University School of Law Library's "Electronic Resources" page, http://www.law.siu.edu/lawlib/resdata/index.htm, http:// indicates the protocol or computer language necessary to retrieve the document. The next part of the URL, www.law.siu.edu/ indicates the domain, in this case a web server for the Southern Illinois University School of Law. The next part, lawlib/resdata/, indicates the directory and subdirectory in which the file will be found. The last part of the address, index.htm, is the file name. This is similar to the naming of word processing documents on your hard drive or network.

Not all URLs will have all of the parts shown above, but they will all have the domain portion. Many web browsers do not require that you type http:// as part of a URL. With these browsers, you could type www.law.siu.edu or http://www.law.siu.edu and be connected to the same page on the same server. Since most web pages contain links, once you are connected to a web server you can use links to explore the files available to the public at that site.

If you receive an error message that the requested page could not be found on the server, eliminate one piece of the address at a time, starting at the right and most specific part of the address until you locate the problem. Using the example above, if the URL http://www.law.siu.edu/lawlib/resdata/index.htm didn't work, you could try http://www.law.siu.edu/lawlib/resdata/, then http://www.law.siu.edu/lawlib/, and if that didn't work, then try http://www.law.siu.edu. We know that the domain part of the address will work because the error message indicated that the server was found, but the file could not be found on the server. Once you find the most specific part of the address that worked, you can use links to try to find the file you want.

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F.     Tips for Printing and Downloading


The Print Preview option on the File menu can be very useful. For example, if you only want to print a small portion of a web page, click on File, then Print Preview. The web page will be displayed as it would print. One of the headers or footers should show which page you are viewing out of how many pages, for example "1 of 7." Click through the pages to find on which pages the information you want begins and ends. Then click on Print and fill in the page numbers.

You can also use Print Preview to make sure the page you want will print correctly. Some web pages print better with smaller margins or in landscape orientation (with the paper turned so that it is wider than it is long). If Print Preview shows that the right side of your document will be cut off, change the page setup or print properties as discussed below.

Another good way to print only a small part of a web page is Print → Selection. First, while viewing the web page from which you wish to print, highlight the "selection" or part of the page that you want by clicking at the beginning of the selection, holding down the mouse button while you drag the cursor to the end of the selection, then releasing the mouse button. Click on the File menu then Print, choose the radio button for Selection, and click on the Print button. This should print only the part of the page you highlighted. Unfortunately, this feature does not work on some web pages. In that situation, you will have to use the Print Preview feature to print only part of the page.

Before printing a document using Internet Explorer, you may want to check page setup on the file menu. There you can make changes to the margins, if necessary, and the paper size, source, and orientation. You can also change the information that will be printed at the top and bottom of every page you print. The defaults on Explorer are document title, page numbers, URL, and date. Since this information will be important when you cite to a web document, you should leave these defaults in place unless you have a reason to change them.

On Netscape, you can use page setup on the file menu to make changes to the margins, headers and footers. You can change the paper size, source, and orientation by clicking on the file menu, then print, then the properties or setup button.

The print dialog on Internet Explorer gives you two helpful options. If you put a check mark in the box before "Print shortcuts in a table at the end of the document," Explorer prepares a table of the URLs of all the links in the document you are printing. This is another way to find out the URLs at websites that don't display them. Once you use this option, it will remain the default until you remove the check mark.

You will only need the second option infrequently, but when you do it will save you much time and aggravation. Some documents are so large that they are loaded on the web in parts. This is done so that each part loads on the user's browser more quickly, and so the document is more manageable online. However, if you want to print the entire document, the multiple parts can be a bother. For example, look at A Broken System, Part II: Why There Is So Much Error in Capital Cases, and What Can Be Done About It, available at http://www.thejusticeproject.org/press/reports/a-broken-system-part-ii.html. To print the entire report, you would have to link to 15 parts and print each one individually.

Instead, using Explorer, you can check the "Print all linked documents" box on the print dialog. This can be a dangerous tool if not used carefully. You should determine what exactly would print if you used the "Print all linked documents" option, and remember to check the paper and toner supply on your printer. This report is more than 800 pages long. Don't forget to uncheck the "Print all linked documents" box before anyone prints another web page from that browser!

Note: The Justice Project site also makes the report available, on another page, as two PDF documents. However, you would have to explore the site to find the PDF version. There is no indication on this page that it exists.

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Downloading and Saving

Some web pages will give you the option of downloading a document in PDF or word processing format. PDF is a format that transmits documents that look exactly like the original, including date stamps, signatures, and the like. It requires use of Adobe Acrobat software. PDF documents usually cannot be edited. Download in PDF if you need the equivalent of a photocopy of the original document. If you download a document in word processing format, you can then open it with your word processor and cut and paste from it into another document.

If the web page where you find your document does not have links for downloading documents, you will need to use your browser to save the document to a disk. Click on the file menu, then save as. You can choose to save a document in html or text format.

To open the saved file in Explorer, click on the file menu, then open, then the browse or open file button. Then select the file you want to open just as you would in word processing. To open a file in Netscape, click on the file menu, then open page, then the choose file button.

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G.     How to Cite Resources Found on the Internet

Citation to Internet sources in legal documents is covered by Rule 18.2 of The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation (17th ed. 2000). The Bluebook "requires the use and citation of traditional printed sources, except when the information is not available in a printed source, or if the traditional source is obscure or hard to find and when the citation to an Internet source will substantially improve access to the same information contained in the traditional source." Id. at 132-33.

The ALWD Citation Manual (2d ed. 2000), by the Association of Legal Writing Directors, covers citation to websites in Rules 38 and 40 and within the rules covering citation to specific types of documents.

Two more detailed print sources on citing to Internet resources are Xia Li, Electronic Styles: A Handbook for Citing Electronic Information (2nd ed. 1996) and Janice R. Walker and Todd Taylor, The Columbia Guide to Online Style (Columbia University Press 1998).

The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions has a web page, Style Guides and Resources, at http://www.ifla.org/I/training/citation/citing.htm (accessed Jan. 15, 2007). The University of Michigan Documents Center has a Citations Guide page at http://www.lib.umich.edu/govdocs/cite.html (accessed Jan. 15, 2007).

Whichever citation format you decide to use, remember that the reason for a citation is to tell the reader (1) who is the document's author; (2) what is the document; (3) when was the document published; and (4) where can a copy of the document be obtained. If you include enough information to answer these questions, thus enabling someone else to retrieve the same statute, regulation, case, or other document, your citation to an Internet resource will serve its purpose. Be sure that you are citing to the exact document you intend, and not to some framing page, as discussed in part E , above.

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For Further Information:

On Search Engines

Greg Notess, Search Engine Showdown: The Users' Guide to Web Searching, http://www.searchengineshowdown.com/ (accessed Jan. 15, 2007).

Search Engine Watch: Tips About Internet Search Engines & Search Engine Submission, http://searchenginewatch.com/ (accessed Jan. 15, 2007).

On Becoming a Better Researcher

The Virtual Chase, Evaluating the Quality of Information on the Internet, http://www.virtualchase.com/quality/index.html (accessed Jan. 15, 2007).

Genie Tyburski, Get Smart About Web Site I.Q., http://searchenginewatch.com/showPage.html?page=2159621 (April 4, 2002).

Paul Petruccelli, Getting It Right: Shortcuts for Busy Practitioners to Evaluate Web Content, http://www.llrx.com/features/getright.htm (March 18, 2002).

Sabrina Pacifici, Getting It Right: Verifying Sources on the Net, http://www.llrx.com/features/verifying.htm (March 1, 2002).

T. R. Halvorson, Law of the Super Searchers: The Online Secrets of Top Legal Researchers (CyberAge Books 2000).

On Websites

Robert J. Ambrogi, The Essential Guide to the Best (and Worst) Legal Sites on the Web (ALM Publishing 2001).

Diana Botluk, The Legal List: Internet Desk Reference (annual publication of West Group).

Greg R. Notess, Government Information on the Internet (Bernan Press, 4th ed. 2001).

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