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Legal Secondary Sources: Introduction

Definition



Secondary sources are materials written by legal commentators and scholars, such as law professors, judges and lawyers.

Secondary sources discuss, explain, and analyze what the law is or what it should be.  In addition, secondary sources provide extensive citations to primary legal materials and other secondary sources.

Why do you use secondary sources?

  • The area of law is unfamiliar to you
  • You are looking for primary persuasive authority and you’re not sure how to narrow the jurisdiction
  • You are researching an undeveloped area of law
  • Your initial case law search retrieved no authority or too much authority

Print Research v. Electronic Research

Use Print When:
  • Electronic searching is unavailable to you
  • Electronic searching is too expensive
  • It is required as a matter of scholarship
  • Information is unavailable electronically
Use Electronic When:
  • Have a unique or unusual search term
  • Need the most recent or rapidly updated information
  • Access is free or will not be billed to client
  • Searching combines facts and concepts (terms and connectors)

Types of Secondary Sources

  • Legal Encyclopedias
  • Legal Dictionaries
  • Treatises and Hornbooks
  • Restatements of the Law
  • American Law Reports
  • Legal Periodicals

LLOC Research Guide to Secondary Sources

Eileen Santos, M.L.S.
Associate Director / Research Instructor


Email Me
202.806.8301
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