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Legal Research Basics: Methods of Finding Statutes: Method 1: From a Secondary Source Annotation

Guide to Statutory Research for LRW Students

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Why start with a secondary source?

It may seem strange at first to start looking for statutes (a primary source) by using a secondary source, but secondary sources are a common place to start your research.  Secondary sources offer explanation and analysis of different areas of law, and thus can provide a good foundation for starting your research.

Common secondary sources for beginning your research in law are

  • Legal encyclopedias (Tip: look for titles containing the term jurisprudence - ex: Ohio Jurisprudence is the Ohio legal encyclopedia)
  • American Law Reports (ALR)

Whether you use them in print or electronically, secondary sources will often contain references in footnotes or annotations to other primary and secondary sources to expand your research.

Good strategy:

Look up an entry in a secondary source by keyword for the subject you're interested in, and check the footnotes for references to pertinent laws in your jurisdiction.

Secondary Sources in Westlaw

Using the search bar:

You can simply run a keyword search from the search bar and then filter your results by content type to secondary.  If you know what title you're looking for, you can also type it into the search bar and watch for it to appear automatically.

Browse > All Content or State Materials:

Depending on what secondary source you want to use, you can click the Secondary Sources link under All Content in the Browse box, or select a state under the State Materials tab and look at its state-specific secondary sources.  Once a source is selected, you will be able to search just within that source, or browse its index, if provided, on the right-hand side of the screen.


Secondary Sources in Lexis Advance

Using the search bar:

You can simply run a keyword search and then filter your search results by content type and jurisdiction.  You can also pre-filter a keyword search by content type and/or jurisdiction.


Alternatively, you can use the Browse tab at the upper-left of the Lexis Advance home page, select Sources, and browse alphabetically, narrow by category and/or jurisdiction, or use the Search Sources box on the left side of the browse window.

Secondary Sources in Bloomberg Law

As far as general sources, such as legal encyclopedias and the American Law Reports go, Bloomberg Law doesn't offer this kind of content.  However, you could use Bloomberg Law to locate treatises, law reviews, and law reports.  

<GO> bar: 

Run a keyword search using the <GO> bar at the top-right of the page, and filter your results by law reviews and journals, law reports, or treatises.

Search & Browse tab > US Secondary Sources 

You can either run your search through all available US Secondary Sources, or click the + to select a specific type of secondary source.