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Legal Research Basics

Overview and glossary for the new legal researcher

Legal Encyclopedias

Legal encyclopedias are like any other encyclopedia except their focus is on legal matters. Entries are arranged alphabetically by subject and are usually neutral in tone. They include citations to cases and other materials relevant to a particular issue. 

There are two main encyclopedias:

1. American Jurisprudence

2. Corpus Juris Secundum

Although the Law Library does not keep CJS in print, we provide access to students through Westlaw: 

Treatises and Loose-leaf Services

Treatises, or books, are explanations or discussion of points of law on a particular subject. Legal treatises range from multivolume, specialized texts to short single-volume works on specific issues. Different kinds of treatises have different purposes. Hornbooks, written primarily for law students, provide a detailed treatment of a particular subject area and generally contain summaries of landmark cases and other useful details. Other treatises serve as practitioners’ tools. They address realistic legal problems and often contain forms. Loose-leaf services are frequently updated tools specializing in a discrete area of law. Loose-leaf services often contain primary legal sources, finding aids, and secondary source material making them an invaluable resource for the topic they address.

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