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Secondary Sources: Legal Encyclopedias, A.L.R.'s, Treatises, Restatements, Topical Services, Periodicals, and Everything Else

What are Secondary Sources?

Primary Sources are the statements of law themselves (cases, statutes, regulations, etc.). They are usually issued by a governmental entity or appointee (court, legislature, government agency, etc.). They can be be binding or persuasive.

Secondary Sources are things written about “the law” by legal experts in a special area (judges, scholars, lawyers, etc.). They discuss, explain and analyze the law. They are always only persuasive.

Types of Secondary Sources

Secondary Sources- Georgetown Law Journal, Index to Legal Periodicals and Books, ALR, American Jurisprudence, American Law Institute Restatement of the Law

  • Legal Encycopedia
  • American Law Reports (A.L.R.)
  • Treatises
  • Restatements
  • Topical Services ("Looseleafs")
  • Legal Periodicals
  • Blogs, News, and Everything Else

Why do I use Secondary Sources?

  • Easier to read than the text of cases and statutes;
  • Discuss, explain and analyze cases, statutes and legal issues;
  • Provide extensive citations to other primary/secondary sources;
  • Contain information about the history and current development of a legal issue.
  • Caveat: Always check how current the secondary source is!

When do I use Secondary Sources?

  • Use them to jumpstart your research: gain a quick understanding of the structure and substance of law;
  • Use them to do in-depth research about a narrow area of law;
  • Use them to increase your awareness of the emerging issues/new areas of law;
  • User them to finetune your searches in databases: learn the basic terminology and doctrines of an area of law.