4 Primary v Secondary Sources

Unlike many other fields of research, legal research makes extensive use of primary sources, in the form of caselaw and legislation. Much of what we are going to focus on in this book is the detailed work of understanding and using these primary sources. However, the importance of secondary sources and finding aids cannot be overstated.

Secondary sources, such as books, articles (scholarly or practice-oriented), and CLE/CPD materials are, in many ways, more important to your research, at least in its early stages: Working with primary material can be overwhelming, as there is an enormous body of this material available (particularly caselaw). Using secondary sources can allow us to rely on experts to pre-filter and otherwise do the heavy lifting of research for us.

Finding aids such as legal encyclopedias, dictionaries, digesting services, quantum services, and indices sit in an interesting space between primary and secondary material… In most cases, these sources are less about serving you the material itself, and more about organizing, classifying, and sorting it for you. While our inclination is often to go straight to searching, finding aids can make searching either much easier, or sometimes even unnecessary.


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Legal Research - A Practical Perspective Copyright © 2022 by Meris Bray is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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