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Law 792-GRD: Legal Research and Writing for LLMs: Unit 6: Secondary Sources


This page will provide you with an overview of Secondary Sources.

At the end of this lesson you should be able to:

  • Identify whether a particular legal research source is Primary or Secondary.
  • Know where to find Secondary Sources
  • Know which type of Secondary Source to use when 
  • Understand how Secondary Sources function as a form of Intermediation (see Unit 7) to assist you in performing legal research

Definition: Secondary Sources

A form of INTERMEDIATION, (see Unit 7) Secondary Sources analyze, explain, summarize, or comment on the law. These materials do not have the force of law, but instead provide helpful information to legal researchers. These sources  are persuasive.

Secondary Sources help legal researchers understand an area of law, and provide citations to relevant primary sources.

Thinking Outside the Box(es)

Secondary Sources can help you prepare for class and study for exams.

  • Having trouble with a case?  Look it up in a citator to see if there are any journal articles that will help you to understand it.  Or look in the Table of Cases at the back of a hornbook (treatise) to find out more.
  • Does your professor like policy arguments?  Look for a law review article on the topic to find ideas.  
  • When putting together your review outline to study for exams, look at the Table of Contents for that topic in a legal encyclopedia to see how the topic is organized.  If this structure makes sense to you, use it to get started with your own outline.  

Additional Resources

Legal Research in a Nutshell, pp. 5-7.

Bluebook Citation Examples

Secondary Sources

Examples of Secondary Sources - Legal Encyclopedia, Restatements, Uniform Laws Annotated, Model Penal Code, ALRs, Law Reviews, Bar Journals and Treatises


VIDEO: Introduction to Secondary Sources

Secondary Sources Overview - Broad to Narrow

Where to Find it



  Good for



  Where to Find It

Legal Encyclopedia

Diplomatic Immunity, See Ambassadors & Other Diplomats

overview of broad topic, primary sources in footnotes

uses hidebound terms - start in the INDEX


Print, Lexis, or Westlaw


Restatement of the Law on Contracts, 2d

black letter law, plus comments and illustrations

There may not be one for your topic


Print, Lexis, or Westlaw

Uniform Law

Uniform Electronic Legal Material Act 

acts designed to be adopted in all 50 states - with comments 

The law you need may not have been adopted in your jurisdiction


Print, WestlawLexisUniform Law Commission

Model Act

Model Penal Code


Aspirational – what the law should be

Anyone can write one



LaFave on Search & Seizure

comprehensive coverage of a single topic, often updated at least annually

often more scholarly than practical, may  or may be updated with a  pocket part

BloombergLaw Getting Started - Books & Treatises
Westlaw - Secondary Sources - Texts & Treatises
Lexis- Browse - Secondary Sources - Category Secondary Sources - Treatises


Legal Research in a Nutshell


quick and simple overview

no detailed analysis, may be a year or two old


Library Catalog

Law Review

Reforming Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Reorganizations
Ralph Brubaker, Robert M. Lawless, Charles J. Tabb 2015 U. Ill. L. Rev. 507

in-depth, scholarly coverage of a specific topic

not updated, tend to be scholarly and idealistic 


Law Journals by Topic 

Journals and Law Reviews that publish articles on a specific topic


Provides basic indexing information for law journal, bar journal and legal newspaper articles, including title and the legal subjects that the article is about. Coverage begins with 1980 and continues to current (with a few months' delay after publication.)


Westlaw - Journals & Law Reviews  

Westlaw's Law Review & Journal page. Notice there are Indexes on the right side of the page


Lexis Law Reviews & Journals  

Alphabetical list by the title of the journal


HeinOnline Bar Journal Library  

HeinOnline's Bar Journal Library contains bar journals from most of the 50 state bar associations.

Bar Journal

The ‘Seller’s Exception’ Defense to Product Liability Actions, Nicholas Owen McCann, 103 Il. B. J. 40 (January 2015)

practical coverage of a specific topic

not updated, written for practicing lawyers


See Law Review, above

American Law Reports 

Liability of swimming facility operator for injury or death allegedly caused by failure to adequately fence facility, 87 A.L.R.3d 886

detailed analysis of narrow topic covering numerous jurisdictions

there may not be one on your issue


Print, Lexis, or Westlaw