Skip to main content

Advanced Legal Research: Researching Secondary Sources & Practice Tools

This guide will help you research in secondary sources and practice tools.


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

CALI Lesson on Secondary Sources

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

Notice of Non-Discrimination | Copyright Information © 2015 University of Cincinnati