2 The Research Plan and Record

Many assignments in law school somewhat pre-plan your research for you… The assignment often suggests where to look, and sometimes, what to look for.

However, in practical research, we are usually much more on our own, able to (and forced to!) determine our own path to take, sources to use, and techniques to engage. This is another area where spending a little bit of time and thought before starting your research can pay off with major time and frustration savings later on. This process can be part of determining what the real question is, as discussed previously, as the twin questions of “what am I actually looking for/where is it likely to be” are closely interwoven.

A research plan doesn’t have to complicated, and it also doesn’t have to be set in stone… As you progress, you may find that some avenues you planned to explore are dead ends, and other areas that seemed to require only a cursory glance are rich sources of information. Your plan will also vary depending on the depth of the research you need to undertake, and should also consider resource constraints you may need to consider.

With that being said, these are some considerations as you build a research plan, many of which we’ll discuss in depth throughout this text:


  • What type of sources are most likely to address your topic with an appropriate depth of discussion (books, articles, legal encyclopedias)?
  • What sources do you have access to? Are some more cost-effective than others? Free isn’t always cheap, if it requires more of your time to wrangle meaningful results out of it.
  • Are there certain sources that regardless of what else you’ve already found, you definitely want to check? It’s very easy to fall down a rabbit-hole of research, and forget to check a key source.


  • What sources are best browsed, versus searched?
  • What keywords do you want to look for in indices?
  • Are there leading authors in the field, where looking at their collected work may be helpful?
  • Do you have cases or legislation that can be noted up?
  • If you’re working extensively with legislation, is a legislative history [LINK] warranted?

Write it down! As you progress through your research, keep a record of where you’ve been, and where you still need to go. This can help keep you on track, and prevent wasting resources on following off-topic leads.

As well, keeping some form of written record of your research can be helpful if you don’t find what you were looking for: Not every research project has a successful conclusion, and sometimes you simply cannot find the answer. Being able to say where and how you looked, can give confidence to whoever you’re sharing your research with that there truly is no answer available, or allow them to spot a gap in your process.

As you find useful cases, save the citation, not the name: Citations are unique identifiers, while case names are not.

What a research plan looks like is very individual, both to the researcher, and to the research at hand. It doesn’t need to be complicated, but at the minimum, should include what sources were looked at, and what was/was not found there. Be as specific as possible: ie “searched Westlaw Edge Canada and read cases” is vague, whereas “searched the Ontario caselaw database on Westlaw Edge Canada for the phrase ‘de minimus’ and found three cases that are on point (2012 JJCC 1, 2021 JJCC 5, 2007 JJCC 8)” is meaningful.

A simple research plan/record that might work for you in some cases is a three column chart:

“Can affidavits for court be taken remotely, and how does administering the oath work in that case?”

Source Technique Key Findings
CED First searched for “affidavits” which had hits in title Practice (Ontario) so browsed there to Practice (Ontario)
III — Courts of Ontario
1 — General Matters
(d) — Court Documents
(vi) — Affidavits
A — Form, Contents, Exhibits
Oaths: “Ontario Rules of Civil Procedure, R.R.O. 1990, Reg. 194, R. 4.06(1) [am. O. Reg. 575/07, s. 1¶4]; Reyes v. Esbin (2016), 2016 ONSC 7755 (Ont. S.C.J.) (affidavits were not established to have been signed before person authorized to administer oaths or affirmations and so did not comply with R. 4.06(1)); National Money Mart Co. v. State Farm Fire and Casualty Co. (2016), 2016 ONSC 6298 (Ont. S.C.J.) (affidavit not in Form 4D and not written in first person nor prefacing statement made by affiant with phrase “I” plus insertion of name; R. 4.06(1) violation).”
Holmested and Watson: Ontario Civil Procedure Browsed to Rule 4.06, Affidavits “The means of administering the oath is set out in s. 9 of the Commissioners for Taking Affidavits Act. Note that affidavits may now be commissioned remotely—that is, without the deponent being in the physical presence of the commissioner: s. 9(2) of the Commissioners for Taking Affidavits Act. (At the time of writing (June 2022), s. 3(3) of the Notaries Act provides that remote notarization may be permitted by regulation under the Act, but no such regulation is yet in force). Where an affidavit is taken remotely, the commissioner must observe (see and hear) the deponent make the required attestations via videoconference: see, for example, Panaia v. Alves, 2020 CarswellOnt 7322, 2020 ONCJ 255 (O.C.J.).”
Westlaw –> Find and Keycite by Name Noted up section 9 of the Commissioners for Taking Affidavits Act. 13 The language in that section supports the proposition that the Commissioner must sign the jurat or declaration as part of the administration of the oath.
14 This court concludes that an affidavit without a jurat cannot be considered to be an affidavit but merely is a statement not under oath. -2000 CarswellOnt 4883, 5 C.L.R. (3d) 86Also points to: Notarization and Legalization
by Practical Law Canada Commercial Transactions


Notarization and Legalization
by Practical Law Canada Commercial Transactions
Read material, searched for “oath” within it Wealth of material starting with: “The notary public or other person administering the oath or declaration shall ensure that it:
Administers the oath or declaration by an electronic method of communication where such person and the deponent or declarant are able to see, hear and communicate with each other in real time throughout the entire transaction.”



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Legal Research - A Practical Perspective Copyright © 2022 by Meris Bray is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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