The materials used for legal research are generally divided into two broad categories: primary resources and secondary resources. Primary resources contain laws, orders, decisions, or regulations issued by a governmental entity or official, such as a court, legislature, or executive agency; the President; or a state governor. Secondary resources offer analysis, commentary, or a restatement of primary law and are used to help locate and explain primary sources of law. This guide introduces beginner legal researchers to different types of secondary resources and provides links to resources in the Law Library of Congress's collections and online.
Secondary sources may influence a legal decision but do not have the controlling or binding authority of primary sources. The secondary resources discussed in this guide fall into six major categories: