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Legal Research: A Guide to Secondary Resources

Legal Encyclopedias

Legal encyclopedias offer broad and general commentary on a wide range of federal and state law. These secondary sources are useful as a starting point for researching unfamiliar areas of law. Most of the articles in encyclopedias focus on case law and do not contain extensive citations to statutes or other secondary sources. Legal encyclopedias are typically kept current with pocket parts or supplements.

The two major legal encyclopedias on US law are American Jurisprudence (Am. Jur.) 2d (available on NexisUni and Westlaw) and Corpus Juris Secundum (CJS) (available on Westlaw). Additionally, many (but not all) states have a legal encyclopedia focusing exclusively on the laws of that state.

U.S. Legal Encyclopedias in Print

The print materials listed below link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to additional online resources are provided when available.

State Legal Encylopedias in Print (examples)

Electronic Databases

The subscription resources marked with a padlock  are available to researchers on-site at the Library of Congress.  If you are unable to visit the Library, you may be able to access these resources through your local public or academic library.