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Secondary Sources - A Brief Overview: Expedite Your Research!

Last Updated: Aug 28, 2018 5:07 PM

Secondary Sources

Secondary Sources

Why should I use a secondary source?

  • To get background information on a legal topic.
  • To get references to primary sources and other secondary sources.
  • To expedite your research - take advantage of research someone else (an expert) has done.

ALR (American Law Reports)

Why should I use ALR?

To find cases from many different jurisdictions on a very narrow topic. It allows you to see trends in case law across jurisdictions.
In paper format: ALR, ALR2d ALR3d, ALR4th, ALR5th, ALR6th, ALRFed, ALRFed2d— KF132 .A5 through KF132 .A47 (Federal Core – 2nd floor) with Index KF132.6 .A47 (Federal Core – 2nd floor).


Encyclopedias (there are others)


Detailed summaries of the (common) law of the US published by the ALI (American Law Institute). Use the Online Catalog to find location of specificRestatements. E.g.,Online Catalogtitle search: RESTATEMENT and TORTS.
Also online: HeinOnline, Lexis, and Westlaw.


What is a treatise?
-A one- or multiple-volume work on a particular legal area written by an expert. Excellent place to familiarize yourself with a subject and obtain references to primary sources.
e.g.. Prosser and Keeton on the Law of Torts KF1250.P7 1984
Nimmer on Copyright KF2991.5 .N5 1978

How can I identify a treatise on a particular topic?

--Use UB Law Library Legal Bibliographies (LibGuides)

--Legal Treatise Research Guides (then check YOUR library for specific titles)
--Georgetown Law Library Treatise Finders
-- Pace Law Library, Legal Treatises by Subject
-- Tarlton Law Library, Legal Treatises by Subject

-- Look at annotations in annotated codes (USCA, USCS, McKinney’s, CLS…)

-- Use a guide, e.g.:
Searching the Law 3rd ed. by Frank S. Bae et. al.( Ref Desk KF240 .S43 2005)
Searching the law: The States 4th 3d. by Francis R. Doyle (Ref Desk KF 240 D69 2003)
Legal Information Buyer’s Guide & Reference Manual by Kendall F. Svengalis (Ref Desk KF 1 L427)
Legal Looseleafs: Electronic and Print by Arlene L.Eis (Ref Desk KF1 .L43)

--Search the UB Online Catalog
NOTE: Full Text legal treatises available on LEXIS and Westlaw (for law students)can be located using the UB Online Catalog---they appear as records in the Online Catalog (with links to the online version).

Pattern Jury Instructions

Why should I consult jury instructions?
-These instructions are useful for background research because each instruction is followed by a comment which explains the legal rules and any cases the rules originate from. The language tends to concisely describe the laws and rules in "plain English."


New York Pattern Jury Instructions– Civil (NY Alcove KFN6047.A65A83)
Criminal Jury Instructions, New York (NY Alcove KFN6171.A65C65 1979)
Federal Jury Practice and Instructions (KF8984 .D4 2006)


Periodical Indexes

(to identify law review and legal journal articles)

Why should I use a periodical index to locate articles when I can use the full text law reviews on LEXIS and Westlaw?

-Because you may locate articles you cannot find using the full text databases. There are a certain number of law reviews searchable on LEXIS and Westlaw in full text, and they are generally only from a recent time period. An index will allow you to search more publications from a broader period of time.

-Because the results could be more relevant. In an index usually all you are searching is author, title, name of journal, and subject headings, so if an article is retrieved it means your search terms were present in that small body of text (not merely in a footnote).

Two major Legal Periodical Indexes (there are others):

Index to Legal Periodicals and Books

Legal Trac

How can I locate journals at UB? (once I have a citation to an article*):

  1. To find out if UB has access to a particular journal in full text ONLINE, type the name of the JOURNAL in “Electronic Journals
  2. To find out if UB owns a particular journal in PAPER format, type the name of the JOURNAL (NOT the article title) in the UB Online Catalog as a "Journal Title" search.

Online Catalogs

UB ONLINE CATALOG Use to find books and other materials in the University at Buffalo Libraries Collections & selected online sources.

WorldCat - Use to find books and other materials held by thousands of libraries in the US and worldwide.

What if UB doesn’t own the book I am looking for?
Order materials through InterLibrary Loan (Delivery+):
Allow a few weeks, though often materials arrive sooner.