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Using Public Records for Factual Research

Resources for research about people, businesses and more

Legal Information Librarian & Lecturer in Law

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Stephanie Farne
Law Library, Room 257
885 Centre St
Newton Centre, MA 02459

Factual Research v. Legal Research

As a law student, you have learned about how to locate cases, statutes and regulations.  When you are practicing law, you will also be called on to do factual research.  You may be asked to:

  • locate an address for service of process
  • perform due diligence in mergers and other transactional practice
  • find out about the background of the opposing party's expert witnesses
  • determine what the weather was on a specific date

How do you find this type of information?  There are many resources, both free and fee based. Use this guide for an overview to get started.

Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)

To access public records from the federal government, you may need to request information under FOIA (Freedom of Information Act).  Filing a FOIA request is a multi step process.  Additionally, there are state FOIA laws if you are trying to access information from state governments. To learn more:

Privacy Protections and Access Limitations

In addition to the statutes below, there may be additional federal as well as state laws which restrict or prevent access to specific types of public records.