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IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law

Secondary Sources   Tags: law, library, research  

Secondary Sources provide a great starting point in your research process.
Last Updated: Sep 29, 2014 URL: Print Guide RSS UpdatesEmail Alerts

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What's in this guide?

  • Legal Encyclopedias
    Comprehensive coverage of a jurisdiction's legal doctrine.
  • Treatises
    Legal texts about an individual legal topic or subject area.
  • American Law Reports
    Annotations providing comprehensive summaries of case law on specific topics.
  • Restatements
    Scholarly attempts to summarize and define judge-made case law in a distinct area of law.

What are secondary sources?

Secondary Sources are legal sources written about the law, as opposed to "The Law" itself, which can be found in primary sources such as statutes, cases and regulations. Secondary Sources typically do three things:

  • Explain the law -- What is the current state of the law?
  • Analyze the law -- Why is the law what it is, and how did it develop to this point?
  • Provide legal arguments -- Should a particular law be extended to cover new areas or reduced to cover less ground?

Secondary sources are a great place to begin research in an area of law with which you are unfamiliar. They can also help you develop a legal argument by pointing you toward primary sources such as cases or statutes. 


Looking for journal articles?

See our Finding Articles guide for tips on searching scholarly and professional journals, another important type of secondary source. Journal articles often provide more focused treatment of narrower topics, and can cover new developments more quickly than other secondary sources can. The extensive footnotes in journal articles can also provide great leads for further research.

Can't find the title you need at the Downtown Campus?

If you're looking for a title that isn't available at the IIT Chicago-Kent Law Library, we have three convenient ways for Downtown Campus students, faculty, and staff to borrow books or request photocopies from other libraries.

  • Request Books Through I-Share
    The I-Share network of 75+ libraries in Illinois gives you access to millions of books and makes it easy for you to manage your own requests. Once you've followed the instructions to create your personal account, you'll be on your way to searching, requesting, and renewing your own interlibrary book loans. You'll receive an e-mail notice when a book you've requested is ready to be picked up at the Downtown Campus Library service desk.
  • Search and Request Books and Journal Articles Through WorldCat
    When you find the title you need, select "Request Item Through Interlibrary Loan" and fill in the request form. If you're requesting a photocopy, use the "Comments" section to provide as much information you have about the article you need -- author, article title, volume, year, and pages.
  • Send Us an E-Mail!
    You can always send your request to

Kevin McClure

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Kevin McClure
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Chicago-Kent Law Library
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© Chicago-Kent College of Law Library, Illinois Institute of Technology
565 West Adams Street, Chicago, IL 60661-3691 | Phone: (312) 906-5600 | Fax: (312) 906-5679


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