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American Law Reports (ALR): Using American Law Reports (ALR) In Print

A guide to using the American Law Reports (ALR) resource for law students, graduates, and members of the public.

ALR Uses

ALRs allow users to . . .

▪ Clear up personal confusion on a particular area of law

▪ Explore a particular area of law in greater detail

▪ Find cases relevant to specific topic, with currency information

▪ Find statutes, rules, and regulations on a specific topic, by jurisdiction

▪ Find a list of additional secondary sources on a specific topic

▪ Get started on a paper, comment, or article by finding a collection of resources on a particular topic

▪ Compare the laws relating to a topic from multiple jurisdictions. ALR annotations tend to focus on areas of disagreement among different jurisdiction.

Print Research Steps

  1. Choose your Topic.

Before using this set, make sure that you have an idea about what it is you want to write about. If you don't know what you want to write about, you can get ideas by browsing one of the two legal encyclopedias, American Jurisprudence 2d or Corpus Juris Secundum, each of which has a  general index located at the end of the series.

 American Jurisprudence 2d includes references to cases and to ALR annotations.

  1. Consult the "INDEX" volumes at the end of the set.

Compile a list of all the pertinent keywords for the topic of your research. For example, if you are writing a paper on whether a hotel is liable for the loss of a guest's belongings, start by looking in the "Hotel" section in the Index. If you do not find anything under this topic, think of other terms where your topic may be. For example, also look under “Hospitality" or "Innkeepers." 

As an alternative, you may use the A.L.R. Digest to research your topic. A.L.R. Digests cover A.L.R. articles according to the West Key Number System, comprising more than 700 topic areas. Each topic provides headnotes for related cases in all A.L.R. series.

  1. Look up the Annotation (Article) in the ALR set.

Once you have found an annotation (ie., A.L.R. article) on your research topic, use the citation given to look up the annotation in the set.

TIP: The number at the beginning of the citation represents the volume within the series, and the number at the end represents the page number. E.g., you might find an annotation that looks relevant to your research that is cited as: 45 ALR 4th 336. To find this annotation, look at volume 45 of the ALR 4th series, at page 336.

  1. Update your research.

Once you have found an annotation that covers the material you want to write on, look in the back of the book in the pocket part. ALR annotations are sometimes superseded by later annotations and this will be indicated in the pocket part.

If your annotation has not been superseded, look for any updates to the text of the annotation and/or citations to related cases which were decided after the annotation was written.

Note on Updating

The current series (6th) is updated with annual pocket parts. When using the 5th series, or any series previous to it, note that articles from those series may have been superseded by the publication of a later series.

For the most updated information, use the 6th Series and look at the annual pocket parts for each year since its publication.