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Legal Research Basics: Secondary Sources: ALR

General characteristics of major secondary sources in legal research

Locating the ALR

In print - the Law Library keeps the ALR in print on the first floor of the US Reference Collection, just beyond the double glass doors

Electronically - the ALR can be found on Westlaw and Lexis Advance.

What is it?

The American Law Reports is a collection of articles (called annotations) on very narrow legal issues.  In addition to providing a thorough explanation of a legal issue, ALR annotations also collect cases from as many states as possible that have dealt with this issue, in order to give you an idea of how that legal issue has been interpreted and applied across the country.

In addition to a survey of state cases on a legal issue, ALR annotations also provide a library of secondary sources to further your research, including related ALR annotations, treatise and encyclopedia articles, and law review articles.  Individual ALR annotations also contain their own indexes and tables of contents.

In print, ALR annotations begin with an exemplary case on the particular legal issue to be analyzed.  Electronic versions of ALR annotations do not, but instead get right to the analysis of legal issue.


The traditional ALR series (ALR, ALR 2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc.) collects state cases; but there is also a series for federal (ALR Federal).  Both share similar characteristics.

  • Exhaustive analysis of decisions from all jurisdictions
  • Annotation-specific libraries of secondary source references for further research
  • Comprehensive index as well as indexes to individual annotations
  • Not ordinarily cited
  • Best used as a research aid and case finder