ANTH 39012 Legal Anthropology

Legal Anthropology

“The law is one big anthropological document.” --Oliver Wendell Holmes, U. S. Supreme Court Justice.

Basics of Legal Research using LexisNexis

Nexis Uni (replaces LexisNexis) is the standard resource for locating court cases, federal and state laws, and articles from legal journals. Other components allow you to search newspapers and sources for business information. In addition there are many resources that are inconveniently hidden that can be quite useful.

Before you start doing legal research, there are several things you should keep in mind.
  1. You are not a lawyer, but you are about to enter the world of legal language, filled with jargon and obfuscation, and what sometimes appears to be endless litigationa and interpretation. Do you know what "Writ of certiorari granted" means? If not, be prepared for a real adventure.
  2. Because legal research is not as easy as searching Google, it is even more important to have a good handle on what you are looking for. You need to be as clear as you can about what issues you seek to research, what keywords and facts are involved. From this you can come up with some good search terms.
  3. Don't start at the top. Do some groundwork by learning as much background information as you can. For this start with secondary sources.
    • In LexisNexis and in the Ithaca College Library reference collection, there are legal dictionarles and encyclopedias. To locate them in LexisNexis, under the US Legal in the left-side column, choose Legal Reference. The name of the legal encyclopedia is American Jurisprudence (2d).
    • Read some relevant articles in newspapers and law reviews. The newspapers will provide more easily read background. The law journals can give you a comprehensive review of issues involved and the names of important cases.
    • People still write books, and sometimes a book will prove to be an excellent guide to a legal topic, often including its social and political aspects.
    • You have my permission to search in wikipedia to find very basic and background information. Basic concepts will be provided and specific cases will be named and perhaps described. Just don't stop there.
  4. Figure out what kind of legal resource you need. Are you interested in a case, a statute, or a regulation? Are you exploring the topic on a national or state level?
  5. Plan on some extra time to learn how LexisNexis works. Finding a case or finding a statute can seem easy but be overwhelming. To find a specific case, you may need to search by name or citation. But how to find the name and citation may be the real challenge.

Other Periodical Databases

Don't confine yourself to only LexisNexis. These databases will provide you access to articles in journals and magazines other than law reviews.
  • SocINDEX with Full Text
    The premier database to use when exploring social and sociological issues, including socio-cultural anthropology, criminology & criminal justice, demography, ethnic & racial studies, and violence.
  • AnthroSource
    The platform for the full text of journals published by or affilliated with the American Anthropological Association. Provides full text for publications such as PoLAR: Political and Legal Anthropology Review,
    Has the full text of journal articles in many fields, including anthropology, archaeology, and medicine, but does not include the most recent contents of journals.
  • ScienceDirect
    Good for locating articles from journals related to forensic science, criminology, and medicine.
  • Academic Search Premier
    A multidisciplinary database that provides access to both peer-reviewed journals and popular magazines.

Contact Us

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Natural Sciences Librarian
(607) 274-3889

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