Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

International Law: General Sources: Treaty research materials & FAQs

This guide lists essential sources for researching general aspects of international law. For specialized topics, such as human rights and international arbitration, see the guide International Law: Specialized Sources.

Treaty research materials & FAQs

This guide uses the term "treaty" as a shortcut for the various terms used for treaties, conventions, agreements, etc. The "depositary" of a treaty holds the official text and provides updated status and other information about the treaty. The depositary might provide a website, a finding tool or other resources to answer your research questions about the treaty. If a convention is monitored by an expert committee or body, the website of the monitoring entity is a great place to start for the text of the convention, explanation, status information about the treaty, required reports from states parties, documents relating to any complaint or dispute settlement procedure, publications, news, etc.. Selected examples include:

More in-depth research may require several types of treaty research materials:

  • full-text sources in print and/or online that provide the full text of treaties
  • "finding tools," including print or online indexes, lists, and status tables, and also online websites and databases, that provide citations and vital information about a treaty and its status
  • travaux préparatoires, the preparatory materials from the drafting, negotiation and adoption of a treaty
  • commentaries, which print the treaty article-by-article with expert commentary on each article, possibly with citations to the travaux préparatoires and/or subsequent IGO documents, reports, domestic implementing laws, cases, or dispute settlements that show the implementation and application of a treaty. 

The FAQs on this page are typical treaty research questions. Each question points to the treaty research materials that can help you answer that FAQ.

Treaty research FAQs and strategy

Treaty research FAQs and strategy, continued

  • FAQ 2:  What treaties are relevant to my research?
    Use the same finding tools listed in the bullet of FAQ 1 entitled IF YOU DO NOT HAVE A CITATION. In addition, read books and articles on your topic to determine what the experts say are the treaties relevant to your area of law. 
     
  • FAQ 3:  What are the "vital statistics" of the treaty: signatories, parties, dates of signing & entry into force, status, is it still in force, has it terminated, has it been amended, etc.? 
    Use the same finding tools listed in the bullet of FAQ 1 entitled IF YOU DO NOT HAVE A CITATION.
     
  • FAQ 4:  Are there background materials ("travaux préparatoires," e.g., drafts, letters, documents, reports, etc.) or States Party materials from the drafting, negotiation and adoption of the treaty that might indicate how it was intended to operate? 
    See Commentaries & travaux préparatoires
     
  • FAQ 5:  Is there an article-by-article expert/scholarly commentary on the treaty which might set forth the history, implementation or application of the treaty with citations to "travaux préparatoires," IGO documents, domestic laws, cases, etc.?
    See Commentaries & travaux préparatoires.

  • FAQ 6:  Are there subsequent IGO documents, reports, domestic implementing laws, cases, or dispute settlements that show the implementation and application of the treaty?