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Education Law

What are Secondary Sources

Secondary sources explain the law. They are extremely useful since the body of law on a given topic can be quite complex especially with regards to the interplay of difference sources of law. Secondary sources can help you understand if your topic requires you to review state or federal sources for example. They can also point out relevant statutes, leading or seminal cases, and any administrative pronouncements that are applicable.

Secondary sources can be academic like law review articles (this is legal scholarship's version of peer review) or practical like practice guides or treatises. Depending upon the issue either type can be useful. Simply put, researching the law without checking secondary sources can result is a great deal of wasted time.

Secondary legal sources are not, however, the law. They can be cited as persuasive in many jurisdictions but they are merely that. The law itself comes from primary sources like cases, statutes and regulations.

Finding Books

Search OneSearch by keyword for books on a topic. If you're looking for a specific item you can search by title or author. For additional information about OneSearch, consult the guide at 

When you find a book in the library catalog that looks useful, review the subject terms that are listed in the book's record. Click on the link for any subject term that looks relevant to view other books in the library also on that subject

These are examples of subject headings to search in OneSearch to find books:

• Discrimination in education - Law and legislation - United States

• Education - Standards - United States

• Educational accountability - Law and legislation - United States

• Educational change - United States

• Educational Law and Legislation – United States - Cases

• Educational Law and Legislation - California

• Educational vouchers - Law and legislation - United States

• Federal aid to education - United States

• School choice - Law and legislation - United States

• School improvement programs - United States

• Students - legal status, laws, etc.

• Teachers - legal status, laws, etc.

• United States - No Child Left Behind Act of 2001

• Universities and colleges - Law and legislation

Useful secondary sources in Westlaw

Below are the most commonly used secondary sources and what you can expect to find in them:

  • Law Review Articles: These are found in specialized databases such as Westlaw. They are academic and typically written by law professors. They are extremely useful since they are heavily footnoted with many references to cases and relevant statutes but can be difficult to use since they are oftentimes highly philosophical and filled with jargon. Good place to research cutting-edge or highly complex legal topics.
  • American Law Reports or ALR: Highly detailed articles on a specific legal topic and the way jurisdictions (state or federal) treat that topic. Excellent beginning point for any legal research. Use Westlaw Campus to easily find these.
  • American Jurisprudence 2d: Legal encyclopedia of American law. Again, readily available on Westlaw Campus and a great starting point for legal research generally.

Secondary sources in other databases

In these databases you can find useful articles ABOUT laws and cases. When searching, include your topic, e.g. "search and seizure" or "school prayer" and also add the keywords "laws or legislation or cases or legal or regulations."

John F. Kennedy Memorial Library
California State University, Los Angeles
5151 State University Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90032-8300