Secondary sources are a great way to begin the research process. Seconday sources may help to avoid unnecessary reasearch because they allow one to access work that another has already done on a particular issue. Moreover, secondary sources are a good starting point for the research process because they allow one to begin the process broadly, instead of narrowly. Lastly, secondary sources often explain legal principles more thoroughly than a single case or statute.
Secondary sources include:
- American Law Reports (ALRs)
- Treatises and Practice Materials
- Annotated Statutes
- Legal Encyclopedias
This guide is based on material written by Deanna Barmakian.
INTRODUCTION TO TREATISES AND PRACTICE MATERIALS
Treatises are written discourses, usually longer than an essay, on a particular subject. Treatises are more concerned with investigating the principles of the subject, and they may be scholarly in nature, such as Blackstones's Commentaries on the Law, or they may be geared toward a legal practitioner, such as manual or handbook. Treatises include legal hornbooks, nutshells, and looseleaf services.
Legal hornbooks are designed as teaching tools, and they explain the general principles of an area of law. Hornbooks are more in-depth than legal encyclopedias, and they generally contain summaries of landmark cases.
Nutshells provide an overview of a legal topic without the detailed analysis found in other treatises.
Some treatises serve as practice materials. These works address actual legal scenarios, and they tend to provide useful materials for practicing attorneys, such as forms and tables.
Looseleaf services are an example of such practitioners' materials. They address real legal situations, and they are frequently updated because the looseleaf format allows single pages to be updated without replacing the entire volume. They often contain primary sources and finding aids, in addition to secondary analytical material.
At the University of Missouri, the catalogue used to locate treatises is called Merlin. It may be accessed from the MU Law Library and Technology web page.
Using a treatise is like using any non-legal book with a few special advisories.
INTRODUCTION TO ANNOTATED STATUTES
Annotated statutes are published for all fifty states in the United States. However, the Law Library no longer subscribes to all of them. What it does have are these are found on the plaza level in the statutes materials section at ranges 109-110. Vernon's Annotated Missouri Statutes (VAMS) are located on the plaza level in the Missouri Reference section under the stairs.
The United States statutory materials are on range 128.
Annotated statutes usually have the word "annotated" somewhere in the title (e.g., United States Code Annotated), but not always. If you are in doubt, ask a reference librarian to assist you.
As the name implies, citations to sources interpreting or otherwise affecting the statute will be given in the notes following the text of the applicable section(s). If you have a citation to a specific chapter or section of the statute, the rest is easy. If you do not have a citation, the steps below may be helpful.
FINDING CASES USING ANNOTATED STATUTES
INTRODUCTION TO LEGAL ENCYCLOPEDIAS
Legal encyclopedias contain brief, broad summaries of legal topics, while providing introductions to such topics and explaining relevant terms of art. The two preeminent encyclopedias in the legal field are AMERICAN JURISPRUDENCE (AmJur) and CORPUS JURIS SECUNDUM (CJS). They are arranged alphabetically by main topic, with a keyword index to describe which main topics a particular term or concept might fall under. The law library only has hard copies of AmJur.
AmJur is available on both LexisNexis and Westlaw, and CJS is available on Westlaw. Electronic versions of the encyclopedias are updated directly. However, if you are using a print version of a legal encyclopedia, always remember to check the pocket parts for any updates.
FINDING CASES USING A LEGAL ENCYCLOPEDIA
If you are using a hard copy of a legal encyclopedia:
If you are conducting your search on LexisNexis or Westlaw: