1. What’s this Guide All About?
  2. Disclaimer
  3. Contents
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What’s this Guide All About?

As its name suggests, we hope that Pennsylvania Legal Research 101: About the Law and How to Find It will help Pennsylvanians develop a greater understanding of what the law is, how it’s created by different branches of the government, and where to find it. It is not, however, legal advice. It is intended to be an educational guide to help users develop a strong foundation for doing legal research.

Legal issues, big or small, can have great impacts on our lives. In the course of our daily lives, we might experience a landlord-tenant issue, a car accident, a birth or marriage, or any other number of life events. This guide is geared towards non-attorneys, including self-represented litigants, public librarians, paralegals, and other members of the public who want a better understanding of how to research a legal issue in Pennsylvania. It mainly includes information about federal and state law, with some material on Philadelphia mixed in.

The handbook starts by offering a basic overview of the U.S. legal system, including the structure of our government and key types of law that are important to understand when doing research. It then takes a closer look at the three branches of government (legislative, executive, and judicial), explains types of law each branch creates, and where to find such law. The guide focuses on primary legal authorities and on sources of free, online information. It may occasionally point to secondary authorities or to resources that might require someone to visit a public and/or law library.

GPLLA - Greater Philadelphia Law Library Association - Social Responsibilities Committee

Pennsylvania Legal Research 101 was created by a group of law librarians serving on the Social Responsibilities Committee (SRC) of the Greater Philadelphia Law Library Association (GPLLA), a chapter of the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL). The SRC aims to support the legal information needs of the Greater Philadelphia community. It is our hope that this guide makes a small contribution to the greater Access to Justice movement by increasing Pennsylvanians’ access to–and understanding of–legal information.

Social Responsibilities Committee, Greater Philadelphia Law Library Association
November, 2022

2022 – 2023 Committee Members:
Kristen Matteucci (Chair), Eric Berg, John Cannan, Andrew Lang, Mary Cate Matta, and Paul Riermaier


This guide has been created by members of the Greater Philadelphia Law Library
Association (GPLLA) Social Responsibilities Committee. This guide is intended to provide useful information about how to find the law, but this should not be confused with legal advice. What this guide cannot do is provide analysis of the law or guidance on what course of action you should take—for that, you’ll need to contact a licensed attorney.

By using this guide, you agree that the information included in the handbook is not intended as legal advice or representation, and you will not rely upon it as such. The Social Responsibilities Committee and the Executive Board of GPLLA make no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information on this site or found by following any link in this guide. The Social Responsibilities Committee and the Executive Board of GPLLA disclaim all liability to any person for any loss caused by errors or omissions in this collection of information.


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