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PLS 4610: Senior Thesis in Political Science I


Here are some simple tips to keep in mind when researching law: 

Legislative Branch = writes the law

  • Federal - Congress is the legislative body (Senate and the House of Representatives) that enacts statutes, many statutes are organized by subject in the United States Code (U.S.C.) 
  • State - the state legislature (names can vary by state), many statutes are organized by state statutory codes by subject

Judicial Branch =  interprets the law

  • Statutes can be vague and open to interpretation. This can lead to disputes
  • Courts resolve ambiguities in law in the form of opinions, orders, or decisions

Executive Branch = executes/ enforces the law

  • Federal level - the President
  • State level - the Governor 

Primary vs. Secondary Authority 

  • Primary - the law itself (constitutions; cases, statues, administrative regulations)
  • Secondary - explain and interpret the law (legal encyclopedias, law journals, treatises, and books) 

Guides to breakdown statute citations:

These guides will help you understand how statute citations are written. This is very helpful when you are researching statutes, not just for citing!

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