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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.

Overview

American Law Reports contain two kinds of material: articles and cases. Articles cover a topic through cases that focus on a particular point of law.  These articles collect the cases from a variety of state and federal courts or jurisdictions and arrange them according to how the courts have ruled.

American Law Reports are great to use for researching narrow topics, doing a survey of existing law, identifying trends in the law, and finding persuasive case law.

The ALR consists of several different series.

  • Eight address primarily state topics (A.L.R., A.L.R. 2d, A.L.R. 3d, A.L.R.4th, A.L.R. 5th, A.L.R. 6th, and  A.L.R. 7th 
  • Three are specific to federal issues (A.L.R. Fed., A.L.R. Fed. 2d, and A.L.R. Fed. 3d)
  • One is for subjects pertaining to international law (A.L.R. Int'l)

American Law Reports

Finding Tools Within ALRs

ALR Complete Series Index

ALR Quick Index

ALR Digest

ALR Table of Laws, Rules and Regulations

ALR Table of Cases

ALR Article Index

ALR Article Outline

Table of Jurisdictions

Updating

All ALR series continue to be updated, though not on a regular schedule.

ALR - Search each volume of the ALR Blue Book of Supplemental Decisions (see below)
ALR 2d - Search in the appropriate volume and pocket part of the ALR2d Later Case Service (see below)
ALR 3rd - 7th, ALR Fed series - Search the pocket part of the same volume

Video Tutorials on American Law Reports

CALI Lesson on American Law Reports

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

Citation Format for American Law Reports

Bluebook

Rule 16.7.6 of the Bluebook (20th ed) covers how to cite ALRs. 

Elements

The citation should contain:

  • Author
  • the word "Annotation"
  • Title (italicized or underlined)
  • ALR volume
  • ALR series
  • Page number
  • Copyright date of volume

Example

William B. Johnson, Annotation, Use of Plea Bargain or Grant of Immunity as Improper Vouching for Credibility of Witness in Federal Cases, 76 A.L.R. Fed. 409 (1986 & Supp. 2015).

ALWD

Rule 22.6 of the ALWD Citation Manual (5th ed.) covers the citation of ALRs.

Elements

The citation should contain:

  • Author
  • the word "Annotation"
  • Title (italicized or underlined)
  • ALR Volume
  • ALR Series (see chart 24.1 for abbreviations)
  • Page (if pinpoint citing, both the initial page and the pinpoint reference)
  • Copyright date of volume

Example

William B. Johnson, Annotation, Use of Plea Bargain or Grant of Immunity as Improper Vouching for Credibility of Witness in Federal Cases, 76 A.L.R. Fed. 409 (1986 & Supp. 2015).

 

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