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Legal Research for UNT Students: Introduction to Legal Research

Resources for students new to legal research

Beginning Your Legal Research

The sources used for legal research are divided into two main categories—primary sources and secondary sources. Primary sources of law can include court decisions, statutes, and regulations. Secondary sources of law describe the law, discuss a legal problem, or offer analysis and commentary about a legal question. Secondary sources of law can include legal dictionaries, encyclopedias, law review articles and journals, treatises, and restatements. If you are unfamiliar with the legal topic or idea that you are researching, it is helpful to review secondary sources first for guidance.  

Secondary Sources of Law: Law Review Articles and Journals

Law review articles and journals are very helpful secondary sources which analyze and critique legal topics and also point to primary sources.  Law review journals are typically edited by law students, and contain articles written by professors, attorneys, and law students. Many law reviews focus on new and emerging areas of law. 

Law review articles can be accessed through the following links:


Shepard's or Shepardizing

Persons new to legal research will likely, at some point, hear or encounter references to Shepard's or Shepardize. Here is a definition from

Shepardize Law and Legal Definition

Shepardize is a legal research method of locating reports of appeals decisions based on prior precedents from Shepard's Citations, books which list the volume and page number of published reports of every appeals court decision which cites a previously decided case or a statute. Shepard's volumes are organized by:

* State and Regional citators 
* Federal citators 
* Specialized practice area citators 
* Other citator products including Shepard’s Acts and Cases by Popular Names

These volumes are updated every month with supplemental booklets. Shepard's Citations are used to find appeals decisions which either follow, distinguish or deviate from prior case law. Shepard's Citations are also available for online legal research.

Nexis Uni provides a Shepardize tool for statutes, regulations and cases

Nexis Uni Shepard's

Secondary Sources for Legal Research: Legal Dictionaries

Legal Dictionaries:

Legal dictionaries provide brief definitions for legal terms. 

Print legal dictionaries can be found at the Eagle Commons Library

Electronic Legal Dictionaries: 

The following dictionaries are free, online dictionaries.

Secondary Sources for Legal Research: Legal Encyclopedias

Legal Encyclopedias:

Legal encyclopedias are very useful-- they provide general information about an area of law that may be unfamiliar, and they are a way to find citations to cases and other helpful materials. The two most well-known general legal encyclopedias are American Jurisprudence, 2d (AmJur) and Corpus Juris Secundum.

An electronic version of American Jurisprudence, 2d is available through the UNT Libraries' website via Nexis Uni.  

To access this resource through Nexis Uni, click the Menu button in the upper left corner and choose All Sources:

Nexis Uni Menu

Next Search Within Sources for "American Jurisprudence 2d" and then click the magnifying glass:

Image showing search within sources at Nexis Uni

From here you can browse the Table of Contents, "Get Documents," or apply the resource as a search filter:

AmJur at Nexis Unit


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