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: