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Asylum Country Conditions Research

Resources to support W&M Law School students researching complex asylum cases.

Top 5 General Research Tips

  1. Pay attention to the authors you cite. If you find yourself repeatedly citing the same author, or coming across their work in other sources, it may be useful to see if more of their articles are helpful.
    • You can use Google Scholar or W&M's main search to find more of that author's work.
    • This may also be useful when considering who to ask to serve as an expert witness on a particular topic.
  2. On that note, pay attention to bibliographies/works cited/footnotes. These often provide invaluable clues to additional resources related to what you're searching for, as well as the bibliographic information for how to track down the source.
  3. To track down a source from a journal, you'll want to note the name of the journal the source came from, the date it was published, and the title and author of the source. From there, you can use the library's Journal Search to see if we subscribe to the journal and navigate to its landing page to search/browse for the article. 
  4. You should never pay for research articles! If you come across a paywall, or if we don't have the book/journal you need, request the source through Interlibrary Loan (ILL) and you'll usually receive a copy within two business days.
  5. Use a citation manager to keep track of all of the sources you'd like to bookmark. These tools can keep track of websites, scholarly journals, news articles, and more, as well as store PDFs and save you time formatting your bibliographies. 

Google Search Best Practices

While searching for information using Google, limiting the type of website that will appear in search results can be helpful to limit your information to government or military sources, as opposed to only news outlets.

To limit the type of website that appears in a google search, simply add “site:” to your search. For example, to limit your search to only government sources, type

Useful limitations for searches include:

  • .gov (US government webpages)
  • .mil (US military webpages)
  • .edu (Educational webpages; can be helpful for some academic publications)
  • .org (the ending used by nonprofit organizations; UN sources are all listed as .org)
  • .af (the country-specific ending for most Afghan web pages; be mindful that none of the sources from the pre-August 2021 Afghan government are available anymore)

Google can be used to search within a specific website, as well. For instance, typing "" will provide results from within Amnesty International's website.

Top 5 Tips For Navigating Library Databases

Searching For and Using ACLED Data

ACLED data

ACLED is a project to create data about armed conflict around the world. This data can be used to corroborate state actors’/non-state actors’ violence. In the rare case, this may be a way to find news stories about the very instance where a client experienced violence.

How to access ACLED data

  1. Go to the main ACLED website and click on the heading at the top that says “Data”
  2. From the main page (pictured below), you can select the time period for the data, location, event type (battle, riots, violence against civilians, etc.) and even filter by what kind of actor (gives a list of various state and non-state actors).
    1. Always narrow by country, that's about as far as you want to narrow the location down to. You’ll be able to narrow that information in the spreadsheet.
    2. If you’re looking for something very specific, you can sort by event type or actor type, but you can also filter these out in the spreadsheet.
  3. For “Export Type,” choose “Actor Based”
  4. Hit “Export”
  5. Download the Spreadsheet! Be sure to save it somewhere you will be able to find it again.

How to use ACLED data

  1. When you open the spreadsheet, the very first thing you should do is make it so you can filter by the categories in the first row. Here’s how to do that:
    1. Select the entire first row (click on the “1” at the top left corner when your cursor becomes a little black arrow)
    2. Click “Data” at the top (an option between “Formulas” and “Review”)
    3. In that menu, click “Filter.” This will create little drop-down arrows next to each category in the first row.
  2. Now you can click on the small drop-down arrows next to each category, like “actor” to filter by who perpetrated the violence, or location. Selecting any of these options doesn’t delete the other data, so you can always unselect/select everything in that drop-down to make the rest of the data reappear.
  3. Pro tip: Select the entire first row again (as above), and make them bold and underlined so it’s easier to read
  4. Pro tip: Hide columns that aren’t helpful, like “event,” “data_id,” and “iso.” These are all categories that ACLED uses but are irrelevant to us.
    1. To hide a column, select the column (click on the letter of the column to select the whole column), and then right-click.
    2. In the right-click menu, you can select “hide”

Searching for UN Documents

UN Documents

The information found in UN Documents include reports from the Commission on Human Rights and CEDAW. These reports are really useful as they separately document and report on the issues reported by clients, and in a way from the UN that’s difficult to refute.

Generally the most efficient way to find out about these issue-specific UN documents is through UK Home Reports (since they usually quote relevant portions). It's probably still best to attach the UN document itself to the Table of Contents/Index and quote it directly, rather than just referencing the part of the UK report that discusses the report.

How to search all UN Documents

  • When you discover a document that you need to get (i.e. through a bibliography of another report), make sure you get the “symbol” (string of letters/numbers that look like this: A/CN.4/594). This symbol makes searching much easier as it will take you directly to the document you want.
  • Go to the UN Documents and click the link to Official Document System Search. 
  • Enter the entire Symbol in the “Search by Symbol” field.
  • Download the PDF.

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