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PLS 314: Secondary Sources

Secondary Sources

Secondary Sources

            5 basic categories of the major secondary sources & what they contain:

            1.  American Law Reports:  this is a hybrid source that is both a primary and secondary source.   It is a primary source because it is a selective reporter.  Each reported case has a companion article or annotation reviewing the subject of the case and summarizing similar cases from around the United States. 

            2.  Encyclopedias:  Include a general discussion of broad topic in the law.  Most encyclopedias contain a general discussion at the top of the page, with citations to authority in support at the bottom of the page.  Encyclopedias can be general, or specific to a particular jurisdiction. 

            3.  Text & Treatises:  Very similar to encyclopedias, but are devoted to a single subject and tend to be much more in depth. 

            4.  Law review articles / periodicals:  Very specific articles devoted to a specific question of the law.  These are written by experts in the field (lawyers, judges, professors) and edited by the highest-ranking law students. 

            5. Restatements:  Offer a black letter outline of common law subject and include commentary and illustrations. 

            The approaches to using secondary sources offered by most secondary sources:

            1.  Table of Contents

            2.  Index

            3. Table of Cases: If you’re researching a particular case, you can look it up alphabetically and this table will tell you where the case is discussed in the secondary source. 

            4.  Table of statutes:  Very similar to a table of cases, but lists statutes instead. 

            Updating of most secondary sources:  Pocket parts.