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Secondary Sources: Home

Research primer on how to use and locate various types of secondary sources in print and online.

Overview

The Research Process

Step #1:  Preliminary Analysis & Secondary Sources

Step #2:  Codified Law

Step #3:  Binding Precedent

Step #4:  Persuasive Precedent


STEP #1: Secondary Sources

Secondary sources are a good starting point, especially when you are researching a new area of law. They can help you develop search terms to find primary authorities and put your issues into context. Secondary sources will usually help you pinpoint the most important authorities on your issue.

Functions of Secondary Sources

Secondary Sources serve TWO primary functions:

  1. To help researchers find mandatory and persuasive primary authority on the legal issue they are researching
  2. To provide commentary on the primary authority for the legal issue you are researching

Limitations of Secondary Sources

There are a few limitations of secondary sources:

  1. Secondary sources may not include everything necessary for your analysis.  Do NOT rely solely on the commentary found in a secondary source.  Instead, read the primary sources it cites to determine if they are on point for your precise issue.
  2. Because the law changes rapidly, it is easy for a secondary source to become outdated.  ALWAYS check the date of a secondary source and update the primary sources it cites to ensure they are still good law.