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Legal Research Guide: Background Research

Why do background research?

One of the first steps in the legal research process is to conduct background research in secondary sources. Secondary sources can provide a springboard for beginning a research project. At this stage the researcher may consult secondary sources:

  • to obtain background information and an overview of an unfamiliar or emerging area of law
  • to obtain citations to primary authorities to launch the research
  • to suggest further issues or analytic approaches to the problem

(adapted from the Thurgood Marshall Law Library Research Guide)

Legal Reference Books

Law Reviews

"Law review" is the term used for articles published in legal periodicals or law journals. They are secondary sources because they are describing, analyzing, or commenting on the law; they are not the law itself. Law review articles are typically written by lawyers or law students. 

Other Databases for Law Reviews