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Information About Pathfinders: Overview

What is a Pathfinder?

...the troops and rangers along this side of the water call me Pathfinder, inasmuch as I have never known to miss one end of the trail when there was a Mingo or a friend who stood in need of me on the other.... The effect on Mabel was instantaneous. The moment she heard [this] sobriquet, she clasped her hands eagerly and repeated the word "Pathfinder!" (J.F. Cooper, The Pathfinder, 1840)

You do not have to do a Pathfinder to get the full three units for this course. You can choose instead to sign up for 208 and do six assignments. Some students, however, like to do a Pathfinder because they want to explore a subject in depth, want to fulfill the writing requirement or a prepare for a note or comment, or simply want the time flexibility that doing a Pathfinder gives them.  Be aware, however, that the Pathfinder is not something you can do quickly. It takes time to gather the information and present it in an organized and understandable manner.

A Pathfinder is our name for a specialized research guide to a subject area. It is not simply an annotated bibliography or a list of cases and materials—it's more like a map to a subject area of law, with explanations and signposts to guide researchers. There is no single way to construct a Pathfinder and the form and substance will depend on the subject you choose. Since this is a legal research course, you should choose a subject that is at least related to law, but it doesn't have to be strictly law related. Increasingly, best Pathfinders take an interdisciplinary approach. The end product, however, should contain not just what you found, but also some discussion of how you found it. Even more important, your Pathfinder should incorporate your own commentary on the usefulness of various articles, books, and research tools and methods.


There are a number of Pathfinders linked from the current bCourses page for Advanced Legal Research.   An example of a successful web-based pathfinder is linked below.  (Note it is  not being kept current.) You need to remember, however, that the subject you choose will, to a large degree, determine the structure of your pathfinder. Analyze your chosen subject, paying careful attention to the type of information that seems relevant to the major issues. Be sure to leave yourself plenty of time to organize the information you have found.

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