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Research Assistant Resources

This research guide is a survival guide for NYU Law research assistants (RAs), providing resources for all stages of their RA work.


Secondary sources are materials that discuss, explain, analyze, and critique the law. They discuss the law, but are not the law itself. While secondary sources can refer to a variety of materials, resources like encyclopedias, treatises, American Law Reports (ALRs), restatements, and model or uniform codes can be a great, authoritative place to begin research. 

While secondary sources are always persuasive authority, courts will look to some sources over others, especially when dealing with an issue of first impression. Those secondary sources are typically treatises, law review articles, and the restatements of the law. It may be appropriate to cite to these sources in your work product for your professor. Other sources, like encyclopedias, ALRs, and legal blogs are a great place to start your research and to help you along in the process, but are generally less citable. 

Should you run into questions or concerns with your research, feel free to reach out to the librarian assigned to your faculty member for specialized advice. Please check this list to determine which librarian you should contact. 


Like regular encyclopedias, a legal encyclopedia covers a wide range of topics, arranged alphabetically. They are are great resource for a broad overview of major areas of law, and tend to include citations to primary authority that will help steer you in the right direction for your research. Each topic will be divided into several subtopics, which then will include short articles to explain a particular area of law.

Legal encyclopedias can be national or state-specific. The two major national legal encyclopedias are American Jurisprudence 2d (Am. Jur. 2d) and Corpus Juris Secundum (C.J.S.). You can find Am. Jur. 2d on both Westlaw and Lexis, as well as in print in the NYU Law Library. C.J.S. is available in print in the library and also on Westlaw

Some states, New York included, have their own encyclopedias as well. New York's two main encyclopedias are New York Jurisprudence 2d (N.Y. Jur. 2d) and Carmody-Wait 2d. N.Y. Jur. 2d is available on Westlaw and Lexis, as well as in print in the law library. Carmody-Wait 2d. is available on Westlaw. If you are researching in a different state, you should check to see what the encyclopedia for that state is called (a hint: many legal encyclopedias have the word "jurisprudence" in them). 

Researching Using an Encyclopedia. If you know you want to use an encyclopedia, you can open whichever encyclopedia you prefer and then use the search bar on Westlaw or Lexis to enter your specific search terms. You can also search generally in all secondary sources and then limit your results to legal encyclopedias. Alternatively, for most encyclopedias, there should be an option to browse by subject and use the Index (e.g. Am. Jur. 2d's index found on Westlaw) to locate the relevant volumes containing the required information.

American Law Reports (ALRs)

American Law Reports (ALR) is both a reporter of cases and a secondary source that contains several cases from across the nation on the same topic, but that have been decided differently. In addition to these cases, ALRs contain a short explanation, or annotation, discussing the point of law for the case chosen. Annotations are quite narrow in scope because they take up only one issue of law. Therefore, ALRs are very useful for in-depth discussion on a point of law, and can be a great tool to find on-point case law. ALRs can also be a great resource for researching circuit splits. An ALR annotation does not exist for every point of law, but if you are able to find an ALR annotation governing your issue, your research will be much easier! 

ALR is owned by Westlaw, but you can also find ALR annotations on Lexis.


Treatises are longer works, written by legal scholars and practitioners, on a single area of law. For example, well-known treatises include Nimmer on Contracts and McCormick on Evidence. Treatises can be national or state-specific. They will be useful for taking a deeper dive into the subject area, and for further clarifying a confusing legal concept. Citations to primary authority can help you quickly find relevant material. You may be referred to a particular treatise by your professor, or by another research guide on your subject area.

Treatises exist in print and online. There are several ways to access treatises on Lexis and Westlaw, including those outlined below.

Treatises on Lexis. 

  1. Type in your search terms into the main search box and select "secondary materials." To narrow your results to only treatises, use the "category" drop-down on the left side of the page to search only for treatises. 
  2. In the main box below the search bar, select "Treatises & Guides" under the "Secondary Materials" heading. From there, you can either use the search bar for specific search terms; select a jurisdiction; or select a topic area. If you do not have a particular treatise in mind, we recommend selecting a general subject area, like Securities Law, and then browsing the resulting list of treatises on that subject area to chose the treatise(s) that best fit your project.

Treatises on Westlaw. 

  1. Type your search terms into the main search box, selecting your jurisdiction as appropriate. Then, using the options on the left side of the page, change your content type to Secondary Sources. Using the "Publication Type" drop-down menu, narrow your results to only "Texts & Treatises".
  2. On the main page in the large white box, select "Secondary Sources," then select "Texts & Treatises" under the "By Type" heading. From here, you can use the search bar and filters to narrow your results. 
  3. On the main page in the large white box, select "Practice Areas" from the options at the top of the box. Select the practice area that best matches your research. Then, select Secondary Sources. You can filter to "Texts & Treatises". 


Restatements are publications that help to collect and distill common law principles into "black letter law." You may be familiar with the Restatements of Contracts, Torts, or Property. Created by the American Law Institute, the Restatements are not primary law, but are considered quite persuasive by courts. In addition to the distilled "black letter law," Restatements contain commentaries, which will provide citations to primary authority. They are available in print or online on both Westlaw and Lexis. Hein Online's collection of Restatements also includes drafts.

Uniform & Model Codes

Model and Uniform Codes and Acts are drafted by organizations in the hopes that states will adopt them. They are not, themselves, mandatory authority. If and when a state adopts a model or uniform code, the adopted version is mandatory authority. Sometimes, states will make changes to the proposed language in the model or uniform code. A well-known example is the Uniform Commercial Code, which is not itself mandatory authority. You can find these model and uniform codes on Westlaw (Uniform Laws Annotated) and Lexis (Model Acts and Uniform Laws)