Skip to main content

ASRC 4304/6340: Critical Race Theory: Secondary Sources

Introduction to legal research for Critical Race Theory.

Secondary Sources Defined

Secondary sources are materials that discuss, explain, analyze, and critique the law. They are resources about the law, and not the law itself. Frequently used secondary sources include legal encyclopedias, legal dictionaries, Restatements of the Law, subject treatises, and articles in legal periodicals.

Secondary sources come in varying levels of complexity. Some resources target law students. Others are designed for the scholar or practitioner. All secondary sources help the researcher understand the parameters of the research topic and learn the basics about the topic. Researchers who know little about the area of law they are researching should first use a secondary source to gain familiarity with the jargon, issues, key cases and statutes, and history.

Be careful how you use the information you find in secondary sources!

Many secondary sources are recognized as broad, general resources. They are a great starting place to get fundamental information, but your research should not stop with a secondary source. Use secondary sources for your background education and as springboard to the primary law (cases and other materials).

Types of secondary sources you may find:

  • Legal encyclopedias: Comprehensive sets of brief articles on legal topics.  While they include many case citations, these citations are selective.  American Jurisprudence 2d is available on LexisNexis Academic.
  • Treatises: Scholarly legal publications that cover a large area of law in depth.  Search the Cornell University Library catalog for treatises on your subject.
  • Law review articles:  Scholarly legal publications on narrow areas of law, often expressing the thinking of an expert with regard to very specific problems.  Search the full text of law reviews on LexisNexis Academic (includes more recent articles) or HeinOnline (includes both older and more recent articles).
  • Restatements of the Law are influential treatises published by the American Law Institute, describing the law in a given area and guiding its development.  Cornell faculty and students can use the Restatements online in the American Law Institute Library.
  • Legal dictionaries and thesauruses contain specialized legal vocabulary.  Use Ballentine's Law Dictionary on LexisNexis Academic.  For unfamiliar abbreviations, use Bieber's Dictionary of Legal Abbreviations, also on LexisNexis Academic.

Web Accessibility Assistance