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SPCE 202: Legal and Procedural Foundations of Special Education

Includes resources to aid in finding and understanding important court cases dealing with special education law.


For SPCE 202, you will need to be comfortable looking up specific court cases and finding discussion of those cases.  This guide aims to help you get started.

Finding a legal case you need to research

Looking up a case in Nexis Uni:

Let's say you have this citation to a case you need to look up:

Timothy W. v. Rochester, New Hampshire, School District, 875 F.2d 954 (1st Cir. 1989)

You could type the party names into the large search box in Nexis Uni, like this:

But a more precise way to search is by the legal citation itself -- in this case 875 F. 2d 954.

Things to look for as you read a case:

  • Case Summary: will help you understand the basics of the case.
  • Headnotes: notes added by Nexis Uni, meant to highlight the important aspects of the case.
  • The Opinion of the Judge: need to scroll down a ways to find it.  Explains how the court arrived at their ruling.  (There may be a dissenting opinion which follows.)

Finding discussion of the case using Academic Search Premier

There are a few ways you can find discussion of legal cases:

To focus on discussion of a specific case, try just typing the party names into the search box, with "v." in between them, like this:

At that point, you can use the limiters on the left-hand side under "Refine Results" to narrow your search.

As you're getting started with a case, you may want to find discussion in a magazine by using the "Magazines" limiter under "Source Types."

You can also look for articles which are scholarly and peer-reviewed, published in academic journals.  Academic Search Premier covers a wide range of disciplines, so your results may be from history or education or civil rights publications.  Again, look under "Refine Results."  There's a special "Scholarly (Peer Reviewed) Journals" check box you can mark.  

If you have a large number of results, you may consider narrowing your search to articles that include some discussion of how the case related to the field of education.  Just add "education" in a second box.  (Or some other term you want to narrow by.)

Many article entries have direct links to the full-text of the article (either in PDF or HTML format). 

But sometimes you need to use MultiLink@ BSU to see if we have access to an article.  

See the box below, titled "MultiLink BSU: Helping you find the full text of the title you want" for more information.

MultiLink BSU: Helping you find the full text of the title you want

When you're using a database, and can't find a link to the full text of an article, look for a MultiLink BSU button.

MultiLink helps you to search the Libraries' other databases to see if the full text is available through another resource.  If it is available, MultiLink provides a link to the text of the article; and if it cannot find the full-text, MultiLink provides a link to Interlibrary Loan so that you can request that we get a copy of the article from another library.

To use MultiLink, click on the blue MultiLink BSU button.  A new OneSearch tab will open.  Look at the message just under the citation at the top of the record.  You may see one or more of these links:

  1. "Available Online."= We have the full article, readable online! Click there and then follow the link provided.
  2. "Available at __ Library."= We have print issues of the journal your article is in!  They're located in the library indicated.  Click there and look at the volumes/years listed to ensure we have the year you need.
  3. "Check for available services." = We don't have the full-text of that article.  Click there, and then choose "Request the item with Interlibrary Loan/ILLiad" to ask for a copy.

If you see "Available Online"  that means you can read the whole article electronically.

Here's what to do next:

  • Click on the "Available Online" link.
  • It will take you down to the "View Online" section of the record. 
  • There you'll see one or more links under "Full text availability."   
  • Click on a link and it should take you right to your article in a new tab.
  • If you don't see your article in the resulting tab, you may be on the more general web page for the journal your article is in.  Simply find the search box and do a search for the title of your article.  It should come right up.


If you see "Available at __ Library"  that means we have print issues of the journal your article is in.

Here's what to do next:

  • Click on the "Available at __ Library" link.
  • It will take you down to the "Get it: LOCATION" section of the record. 
  • There you'll see which library it's in (ex. Bracken), followed by a list of the years/volumes we own.
  • The Bound Periodicals at Bracken Librarian are located on 2 West, shelved alphabetically by the title of the journal.

If you see "Check for available options"  that means we don't have the article, but if you're affiliated with Ball State, you can request it through Interlibrary Loan.

Here's what to do next:

  • Click on the "Check for available options" link.
  • Scroll down to the "Links" section of the record. 
  • Click on the link "Request the item with Interlibrary Loan/ILLiad.
  • You'll be prompted to log in with your Ball State username and password.  Complete and submit the form.  You'll get an email when the article is available.  Consult the Interlibrary Loan FAQ for more information about this service.

Finding discussion of the case using Nexis Uni

Use Nexis Uni to find discussion of your case if you want to find in-depth, lengthy analysis in law reviews.

The easiest way to search for articles in law reviews and journals is to use the Guided Search, as shown in this example.

Then, you have options for narrowing your results, to be more precise.

To narrow to articles that include a certain word or phrase, type your additional search terms in the "Search Within Results" box, as shown here:

If you'd like to focus on articles published in a certain state, assuming it would include some focus on state law within that chosen state, use the "Jurisdiction" drop-down menu to choose a state.

You may also considering narrowing by the legal focus of the article using the "Practice Areas & Topics" limiter.

If you find you have too few articles to look through, you can remove a limit by clicking on the X next to the limit to be removed.  That will result in more articles.

Then get ready to sit back and do some readings; these articles are going to be long!

Finding discussion of the case using Google Scholar

Google Scholar covers a wide range of disciplines.  Its familiar interface makes it appealing.

However, it is important that you make sure you have your settings enabled so that you can take advantage of the articles you have access to as a Ball State student.  Otherwise you may be prompted to pay to access articles we can get you for free.

First of all, click on the three-lined, hamburger option in the upper-left...

...and then choose "Settings" which may be displayed just as the gear icon.

Then choose "Library links"...

...and type "Ball State University" into the search box.  Click "Save" and Google Scholar will remember to link you to articles you can access as a Ball State student (thereby saving you LOTS of money) using the MultiLink@BSU link.

You'll also want to go to the "Account" settings...

...and click the check-box that says "Signed-in off-campus access links" to make searching from off-campus easier.


Search techniques for Google Scholar

Consider using the Advanced Search option to add more keywords to your search.

You can type a term you want to search on in the "at least one of the words" box, and then type some synonyms or related words.  Putting quotes around two or more words indicates you want to search for those words as a phrase.

Experiment with the other Advanced Search options to see what works for you.

Finding the full article to read

As a Ball State student, you will want to use the "MultiLink@Ball State" link to look for the full text of an article you want to read.

Depending on how we have access to that article, you may be brought directly to the article, or you may be brought to OneSearch, where you'll need to look under "View Online" for links to open the article in one of our databases.