Using Legal Encyclopedias to Start Your Research
Legal encyclopedias are excellent tools for starting your research. Use them to select a topic, develop terms for searching other tools, or to obtain references to primary materials (cases, statutes, regulations) or secondary materials (annotations, texts, forms, etc.). To effectively research in a legal encyclopedia:
- Step One: Search for your terms in the index volumes
- Step Two: Find the indexed topics & sections
- Step Three: Read the encyclopedia entry
- Step Four: Update your research
The two major legal encyclopedias are:
- American Jurisprudence 2d (AmJur)
Law Reference KF 154 .A45
- Corpus Juris Secundum (CJS)
Law Reference KF 154 .C65
- The index volumes are located at the end of the encyclopedia. They are updated annually, so it is best to start there to find the latest information. Look up your topic using common words and phrases.
- Once you find the general topic, scan the entries for the more specific topic.
- An entry will give you the text followed by topic §number. For example, Zoning §12.
- If your topic is abbreviated and you are not sure what the abbreviation means, look in the front of the book at the table of abbreviations (AmJur) or abbreviations of titles (CJS).
- The analysis (AmJur) or outline (CJS) provides a full outline of the topic.
- The scope note (AmJur) or scope of title (CJS) discusses what is and what is not covered within the topic.
- American Jurisprudence 2d includes full cross references to topics treated elsewhere. In addition, the introductory sections for each topic include research references to secondary sources such as the American Law Reports and textbooks.
- Corpus Juris Secundum provides library references to the West topic & key number system for finding case law.
- Entries consist of explanatory paragraphs with footnotes citing primary materials (cases, statutes, and regulations) which support the propositions stated in the entry.
- Both encyclopedias contain pocket parts, pamphlets which are inserted in a pocket at the back of the volume.
- Consult the pocket part to find later materials within your topic.
- Occasionally, you will find a supplementary pamphlet on the shelf next to the main volume. This takes the place of a pocket part when its contents will no longer fit inside the back of the volume.
- Use the same topic §number that you searched in the main volume.
Page maintained by Stefanie Weigmann
Last updated: August 2012