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Legal Resources for Non-Law Students: Background info

links to general legal information for students and the public

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Reference and overviews

Find encyclopedia entries and more in the Gale Virtual Reference Library (GVRL).



Discover at the Blume Library log

Use Discover to search almost everything.

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Journal/law review articles, legal encyclopedias, legal guides

scalesFor basic information, especially about topics of major historical or popular interest, use the general online reference sources in the boxes below (Credo Reference and the Gale Virtual Reference Library). 

For more specialized legal information, try these sources:

Legal Journals/Law Review Articles:

A useful set of reference books, in the Library on the first floor:

  • U.S. Legal System. KF387.U15 2004. Alphabetical encyclopedia of terms and concepts. 

More about secondary sources

booksIn the world of legal resources, laws, regulations, opinions, and cases are considered primary sources of law.

Secondary sources are legal research articles, legal encyclopedias, and other fruits of scholarship that analyze the primary literature. Some links to this kind of information are in the box on the right. right

Often these secondary sources can be good starting points for doing research related to legal issues, especially for non-law students. Time-saving benefits may include:

  • explanations of legal concepts
  • historical context for legal concepts
  • suggestions of terminology to be used in further searching
  • citations to primary sources pertaining to the topic 
  • compilations of information from several different primary sources on a single topic

checkHowever, be aware of the following aspects of a secondary source that might affect its suitability for a particular research need:

  • intended audience: for the general public or for lawyers? will affect the level of technicality, denseness of jargon, etc.
  • jurisdiction covered: federal, state, local?
  • currency: up-to-date or of historical interest?