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Advanced Legal Research: Researching Secondary Sources & Practice Tools  

This guide will help you research in secondary sources and practice tools.
Last Updated: Feb 12, 2015 URL: Print Guide RSS UpdatesEmail Alerts

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CALI Lesson

Introduction to Secondary Resources (45 min.)

Available to Law Students only (see a reference librarian if you do not have a CALI activation code).


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Legal materials can fall into two different categories:  (1) Primary and (2) Secondary.  Secondary sources are about the law.  They explain, analyze, interpret, discuss, and cite to primary sources.  Examples of secondary sources include:

  • Legal Dictionaries
  • Legal Encyclopedias
  • American Law Reports
  • Restatements
  • Legal periodicals
  • Treatises

Secondary sources can only be persuasive, they can never be mandatory or binding on a court of law.  The persuasive value of a secondary source depends on its author. Using secondary sources can save legal researchers time and money.

Practice Tools are a subset of secondary sources.  Examples of practice tools are:

  • Form books
  • Desk books
  • Jury verdict and settlement reporters

Research Process Flowchart

Where do secondary sources fall in the research process? Well, if you’re following a basic research strategy, after you analyze your facts, you'll want to consult secondary sources to learn more about your issues and to get references to primary sources.

Research Process Flowchart

Associate Director of Public & Research Services

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Susan Boland
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Robert S. Marx Law Library
University of Cincinnati College of Law
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