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Law Library Basics: Legal Research - Secondary Sources

An introduction to the Law Library and Legal Research for students

Where to Start

Secondary sources are materials that discuss, explain, analyze, and critique the law. They discuss the law, but are not the law itself. Secondary sources, such as Law Journals, Encyclopedias, and Treatises are a great place to start your legal research.  Unlike primary materials (case law, statutes, regulations), secondary sources will help you learn about an area of law, and provide you with citations to relevant primary materials.


JULIUS is the NYU Law Library's online catalog - named for Julius Marke, who was the Director of the Library from 1945 - 1982.  It can be accessed through the Library home page by clicking on the "JULIUS online catalog" or "Books, Journals & Databases" links under Research.

Each book in the library is assigned a "call number."  The NYU Law Library uses three different call number systems:

   *   Library of Congress: The majority of the collection has been assigned Library of Congress call numbers.  Under the LC classification system,         K=Law and KF= U.S. Law, so don't be surprised that the majority of materials begin with K or KF.

   *   NYUL:  The call numbers for older materials begin with NYUL - a system unique to the Law School.  These materials are shelved separately from         the LC call numbers. 

   *   SuDoc: These numbers are for government documents, and are also shelved separately from the LC call numbers.

It is important, when looking up materials on JULIUS to note both the call number and LOCATION.  Clicking on the location on JULIUS will take you to a map of the location of the materials you are looking for.


A legal encyclopedia is a comprehensive set of brief articles on legal topics.  It is arranged in alphabetical order, with an index generally included in the final volume.  Legal encyclopedias are a great place to start your research on a new topic since they offer a general introduction to a legal topic, and often include citations to cases and additional materials.

The two main legal encyclopedias are:

Corpus Juris Secondum (C.J.S.) is availbe in print at the NYU Law Library; this source is also available via Westlaw

American Jurisprudence 2nd (Am. Jur.2d) is available in print at the NYU Law Library; this source is also available via Lexis and Westlaw


Legal treatises provide a scholarly and in-depth treatment of a legal subject. They often clarify significant concepts in the area of the law covered by the treatise and provide citations to pertinent cases and other primary materials.  The Law Library maintains treatises covering a wide variety of subjects, in both print and electronic formats which can be located through a search on JULIUS.

Hornbooks and Nutshell Series books are available at the Circulation Desk.

Law Journals and Periodicals

Law Journals are scholarly publications covering the legal field.  They publish articles that are comprehensive studies of current topics in law, generally written by law professors and practitioners.  The articles generally contain substantial citations to primary and secondary sources on the topic, which may lead you to additional information on the subject.

Paper Versions:

In NYU Law Library, all law reviews, journals and other periodicals ("journals") are shelved by call number, not alphabetically. To get the call number and location, search the JULIUS catalog by the journal title, e.g. "Yale Law Journal," not by the title of the article.

Electronic Journals:

Electronic version of journals may be reached through JULIUS using "Find Journals & Articles."  For a complete alphabetical list of electronic journals available, leave the box next to "Journal title" blank and click on submit.


Indexes give access to multidisciplinary sources.  Use the "Article Finder" drop down for access to Indexes.  These indexes, such as HeinOnline Law Journal Library and Index to Legal Periodicals Fulltext provide access to hundreds of journals.

Dictionaries and Reference Tools

The following sources will assist you with finding the meanings and usage of legal terms and abbreviations:

Black's Law Dictionary (9th ed.) (KF 156 .B53) is available at the Circulation and Reference Desks

Prince's Bieber Dictionary of Legal Abbreviations (6th ed.) is available at the Circulation and Reference Desks.

The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citations (20th ed.) is available at the Circulation and Reference Desks.