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Secondary Sources

What are Secondary Sources?

A secondary source or authority is any legal material other than primary authority (cases, statutes and regulations).  They are seldom binding on courts, but they may be persuasive authority and be cited by them.  Secondary sources explain, summarize and cite the primary law.  There are many types of secondary sources outlined on the following pages.

When do you use a Secondary Source?

It is usually a good idea to use secondary sources as the first step in your research as they are useful for so many things.  Secondary sources can help you by providing valuable background information and introducing you to important terminology in the area of law you are researching.  They will provide you with the pertinent citations to important cases, statutes and regulations.  You can use secondary sources to find analysis of your topic, history, policy and summaries. They consolidate primary authority from multiple sources and jurisdictions.  They are also good for practical advice and current awareness too.  You can find many practice tips and even checklists along with recent cases and legislation and predictions for the trends in the field.  Lastly, you can also browse them to find related topics and issues if you need to expand your research once you get started.  Using secondary sources is a great way to begin, not end, your research.