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Secondary Sources

Secondary sources criticize, describe, discuss, and summarize the law found in primary law sources. (Primary law includes constitutions, laws, judicial opinions, and regulations.)

Legal Encyclopedias

American Jurisprudence 2d (Am. Jur. 2d) (green)

  • Reference Area photo of Am. Jur. 2d volumes(KF154.A42)
  • Westlaw, LexisNexis, Nexis Uni

Corpus Juris Secundum (C.J.S.) (dark blue)

  • Compact Stacks (KF154.C562)
  • Library's print set not updated since 2009.
  • Westlaw

Both legal encyclopedias:

  • Cover U.S. law generally (with an emphasis on case law). 
  • Have general indexes for the whole set and title indexes for individual articles. 
  • Have articles (or "titles") that may be hundreds of pages long; each begins with a scope note and an outline.
  • Articles are arranged in alphabetical order and divided into sections. 
  • The indexes refer to the topics by abbreviated titles; each index volume has a list of the abbreviations.

Am. Jur. 2d is updated with pocket parts and occasional replacement volumes. C.J.S. is updated through 2009.

Tips for Using Legal Encyclopedias in Print

Be patient with the index.

  • Cross-references. Under a heading A, you might see different cross-references.
    • A cross-reference to "B (this index)" means you should go look under that heading (B). 
    • A cross reference to "X, infra" or "Y, post," or "Z, supra" means stay with the same heading you started with (A), but look under X, Y, or Z as a subheading. (Am.Jur. 2d uses "infra" and C.J.S. uses "post.")
    • Be aware of indents; some index headings have sub-sub-subheadings.
  • Reorganized topics. Occasionally you will follow an entry from the index and find that the section you looked up does not match what you saw in the index; if so, check to see if there's a table indicating the article was renumbered when the volume was revised.

Watch the dates. Some volumes are 30 years old; others were revised within the last few years. Be sure to check pocket parts for new material.

Tips for Using Legal Encyclopedias Online

Full-text searching (either natural language or with Boolean connectors) can be powerful, but take advantage of the online tables of contents to browse.

American Law Reports (A.L.R.)

American Law Reports contain selected, illustrative cases, accompanied by "Annotations," which are articles summarizing legal issues and noting cases from around the of A.L.R.6th volumes

  • Annotations are on more focused topics than legal encyclopedia articles — e.g., a specific issue concerning a store's liability for a customer slipping and falling in the store, rather than all of negligence.
  • A six-volume Index to Annotations covers all A.L.R.s except the first series (which is very dated).
  • Check the pocket part or the Annotation History Table at the end of the S-Z volume of the Index to see if your annotation has been superseded.
  • A.L.R.3d, 4th, 5th, 6th, and Fed. are updated with pocket parts.

A.L.R. sets

  • A.L.R.3d, A.L.R.4th, A.L.R.5th, A.L.R.6th and Index: Reference Area (KF132)
  • A.L.R.Fed.: Reference Area (KF105)
  • A.L.R. and A.L.R.2d: Compact Stack (KF132)


A.L.R. is on both LexisNexis and Westlaw, from the second series on.
Since Thomson Reuters (Westlaw's parent company) produces the set, it is more current on Westlaw. Only Westlaw has the index online.