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Legal Research

This research guide introduces users to the legal research process. If you're new to legal research, it's best to follow this guide step-by-step.
About Secondary Sources

With Step 1 complete, the next step is to consult secondary sources such as legal encyclopedias, law reports, journals, treatises, and restatements. Consulting secondary sources early in the search process can save time by serving as a springboard to primary sources. Secondary sources can also help put everything into context and identify key legal terms. In most cases, one or all of these secondary sources is a good place to start your research--be sure to consult them to speed up your research at the outset.

Legal Encyclopedias

Legal encyclopedias provide general background information on various legal subjects and provide citations to cases, statutes, and other useful resources. General and jurisdiction specific Legal encyclopedias are available in print and digital formats.

Law Reviews

These periodicals often provide valuable analysis of legal topics you may be exploring. Law reviews are law student-run publications covering a wide range of legal topics. Law review articles are typically written by law professors and practitioners; law review "notes" are shorter pieces written by law students. Law review articles are good secondary sources to consult alongside AmJur and ALR. A law review article or note that speaks to your legal topic can provide valuable context and additional references to statutes and cases.


A legal treatise is a scholarly legal publication (book) about all of the laws relating to a particular area, such as criminal law or trusts and estates. Legal treatises are secondary authority, and can serve as a useful starting point for legal research, particularly when the researcher lacks familiarity with a particular area of law. Lawyers commonly use legal treatises in order to review the law and update their knowledge of pertinent primary authority namely, case law, statutes, and administrative regulations.