Don’t Forget Secondary Sources

Librarians often tell students to start researching with secondary sources. Secondary sources are a great starting point for researching an unfamiliar area, providing a narrative explanation of complex concepts, giving citations to primary authority, and commentary on cutting edge legal issues. Something we don’t discuss that secondary sources can provide confirmation that there is no clear rule or guidance on an issue or common sense answer. In these instances, secondary sources are not our starting point, but rather our last ditch effort to find something, anything, to confirm that which is suspected as true. Recently a CLE (Continuing Legal Education) book confirmed for a researcher that there is no clear answer to a lien question. The book was found by using our catalog and searching for the larger concepts (association and Florida). Roaming the shelves is another great way to find secondary sources in print. We have a call number list on some of the shelves on the second floor that can help narrow this type of search.

Of course, secondary sources, including many CLEs, are available in Westlaw and Lexis, Hein Online, and sometimes in Google Books. It is important to remember that many secondary source titles are only available through one database. So, Tax Analyst titles are only available on Lexis, whereas WGL titles are only available in Westlaw. So it often a good idea as a student, who has educational access both Westlaw and Lexis, to search both vendors if information is still needed.