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Primary and Secondary Sources
Legal Sources are given different weight or authority. Primary Sources are official pronouncements of the government such as regulations, legislation, and court decisions. Secondary sources analyze legal doctrine and they include law reviews (a certain type of academic journal).
- Statute or Law: "A law enacted by a legislative body - such as the United States Congress, or a state senate. Statutes are the primary source of law in the United States" (Legal Information Institute).
- Where to find: Legislative web site, Legal Information Institute, codified books, legal looseleaf services, legal databases.
- Regulation: "A rule, adopted under authority granted by a statute, issued by a municipal, county, state, or federal agency. Although not laws, they have the force of law and often include penalties for violations" (Nolo's Plain-English Law Dictionary).
- Where to find: Agency web site, legal looseleaf services, legal databases; may be harder to find full text than statutues.
- Decison: "A conclusion, usually by a court, which involves the interpretation or application of law to the facts of a particular case" (Robert's Dictionary of Industrial Relations, 4th ed.) Decisions are also made by administrative judges or boards. They are popularly known as 'court cases".
- Where to find: codified volumes, legal looseleaf services, legal databases, selected web sites; Supreme Court decisions can be found on the Legal Information Institute web site.
- Law Review Articles: Law reviews are scholarly legal journals published by law schools. The articles focus on narrow, contemporary legal topics and are written by legal scholars, judges, and attorneys and are edited by law school students. A typical law review article is lengthy and heavily footnoted, usually with references to court decisions as well as other law review articles.
- Where to find: Legal databases, law journal databases, law libraries.
- Treatise: A scholarly legal publication, usually analyzing, with the latest decisions, the body of law in a particular area.
- Where to find: Law libraries; some are also available in legal databases.
Legal Reference Books
West's encyclopedia of American law, 2nd ed.
Publication Date: 2005
An electronic/online version of the thirteen-volume 2nd edition providing current information on more than 5,000 legal topics including important issues, biographies, definitions of legal terms and more. Restricted to RU affiliates.
Online Legal Reference Books
Black's Law Dictionary
Black's Law Dictionary (within Westlaw Campus Research)
Black's Law Dictionary is a standard in legal research. This dictionary is located within the Westlaw Campus Research database. To access this dictionary, first connect to Westlaw Campus Research through the link provided above. Click the "law" tab on the top left. Then under "Shortcuts" on the left panel will be a link to "Black's Law Dictionary."