Skip to main content
Banner Image

Researching Secondary Sources in Law

This guide is designed as an introduction to researching secondary legal sources. Secondary sources are about the law rather than the law itself. They are great research tools that can save you time and money.


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.

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