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Secondary Sources: Encyclopedias

A guide designed for first year law students on the MU Law Library's resources for secondary sources / Last updated by Jacob Wood, JD '25

What are Legal Encyclopedias?

Legal encyclopedias are very similar to the general encyclopedias you probably used as an undergraduate or high school student, except that they are focused on legal topics. They are multi-volume sets that provide brief, general overviews of many legal topics that are great for getting some background in unfamiliar areas of law. 

The most commonly used legal encyclopedias are American Jurisprudence (AmJur) and Corpus Juris Secundum (CJS). Some states even have encyclopedias that are specific to their jurisdictions. 

Encyclopedias help you: 

  • Gain an understanding of unfamiliar legal topics
  • Identify keywords to search in other resources
  • Find relevant cases and statutes

Things to be aware of:

  • Coverage is not in-depth
  • Not considered scholarly or authoritative (should not be cited)

Locating Encyclopedias