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Legal Research Guide

This guide is intended for legal research and reference use by all NAU students. The information in this guide is not intended as legal advice.

Two Types of Legal Resources: Primary and Secondary

  • "Primary" sources are "the law," created by government authorities, including constitutions, statutes (created by Congress and state legislatures), court opinions (cases), administrative regulations (created by executive agencies), administrative decisions, and municipal ordinances. These sources also are divided into federal, state, municipal, and tribal law.
  • "Secondary" sources are explanations of the law, including dictionaries, legal encyclopedias, American Law Reports (A.L.R.) annotations, Restatements of the Law, law review and journal articles, news reports, and other commentary. 
  • Legal researchers begin their research with secondary sources. These sources are organized by topic and contain citations to relevant primary sources. For example, the dictionaries and encyclopedias on the next page are good places to start your legal research.

Evaluating Legal Information Found on the Internet

The Internet contains many free sources of legal information. However, you must determine whether that information is credible. Here are four (4) "Questions to Ask When Determining Credibility of Sources," to help you evaluate the source of the information. Scroll down to the chart "Identifying Credible Sources" to learn what sources to avoid.

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