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Legal Research

Fundamentals of Legal Research



Secondary Sources are about the law

  • Encyclopedias
  • Treatises
  • Law reviews
  • Restatements
  • ALR
  • Uniform or model codes

At most, secondary sources are persuasive authority.

Finding aids (finding tools or access points) help locate sources:

  • Indexes (Westlaw's online index is usually located on the right)
  • The digest or key number system (Westlaw)
  • Table of contents
  • Shepard's and Key Cite can also be used as a source for more secondary or primary materials
  • Annotations

Legal Texts and Treatises

Types of Secondary Sources

American Law Reports (ALR)


Good for legal definitions. Start here if you are unfamiliar with a term.


Black's Law Dictionary

Ballentine's Law Dictionary


Good for a general overview. Like a general encyclopedia but specific to law. Multi-volume sets.


American Jurisprudence 2d (AmJur) and Corpus Juris Secondum (CJS) are the most widely used national encyclopedias.

Legal Periodicals

Legal periodicals include law journals, law reviews, bar journals, commercial journals, and newspapers.

Restatements of Law


Subject specific discussion of the law. Depth varies. Some are also jurisdiction specific. The West Academic Digital Study Aids subscription includes the Concise Hornbook Series of one-volume treatises designed for law students.


Nimmer on Copyright

Dobbs' Hornbook on the Law of Torts

Maine Environmental Law Handbook by Bernstein, Shur, Sawyer & Nelson

Maine Family Law by Jon D. Levy


For more secondary material located in the library go to the secondary sources lawguides.