Are you stuck looking for a topic for an upcoming Note or paper?  State comparison surveys, or 50 state surveys, are a popular method for exploring how laws on a specific topic vary across the country.  50 state surveys can be cumbersome and time consuming to compile, but luckily there are now several tools available to save you an immense amount of time and effort!  These tools include precompiled surveys as well as build it yourself options.

You can find 50 state surveys freely online and through our subscription databases.

The National Conference of State Legislatures is a bipartisan organization that conducts policy research in a variety of areas ranging from agriculture and budget and tax issues and education to health care and immigration and transportation.  This research includes 50 state surveys, such as this one on Body Worn Cameras.  For more information on body worn cameras, please see this post from the Wisblawg regarding recent research from faculty member Keith Findley.

The American Bar Association also has some 50 state surveys freely available on their website, such as this one on Plaintiff's Medical Care and Treatment—Discovery and Evidentiary Issues.

HeinOnline has an extensive collection of precompiled surveys arranged by topic in their database titled National Survey of State Laws.

The big three research databases, Westlaw, Lexis and Bloomberg, all offer sophisticated tools for those looking to create their own 50 state survey, or review precompiled ones.

Lexis’s bank of precompiled surveys arranged by topic can be found on the Lexis website.  These surveys include a federal overview and a chart with state laws clearly arranged with links to statutes and regulations.

Westlaw’s tool, Jurisdictional Surveys, allows users to build their own survey using citations, index terms, and topics.

Similarly, Bloomberg Law’s State Law Chart Builders provides researchers with the opportunity to create their own survey on a variety of topics.  They also provide precompiled surveys on precise areas of law, such as Tax concerns.

State surveys can be an excellent complement to an already well researched and written Note, or provide inspiration to a Note in its early stages.  They are also informative on many topics if you are simply curious about a certain area of law.

As always, if you have questions about creating your own 50 state survey, please contact the reference staff for help.  We are available by phone (608-262-3394), email (, or chat (available on our homepage), or you can reach me directly by email (, I’m always happy to chat research!

Submitted by Elizabeth Manriquez on September 14, 2021

This article appears in the categories: Law Library

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