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Law: Legal Research

A guide to help you research legal topics

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Legal Research

What is a primary source?  In legal research, a primary source refers to a legal authority such as a statute, a regulation, or a code.  These are all different terms that mean THE LAW!  Actual laws, statutes and codes are primary legal sources because they are the law itself; they have been enacted by the government.  Case law, which is a decision made by the court, is also a primary source. 

In Arizona, state laws are referred to as statutes.  The Arizona Revised Statutes is a multivolume set of books that contains the official laws of Arizona.  It is also available online  Each state has its own set of laws.

Federal law is referred to as code.  The United States Code contains all of the federal laws for the U.S. 

Secondary sources are any materials that discuss a particular legal topic, but are not the actual law.  For example books, articles, and encyclopedia entries are all secondary sources because they are not official laws.  Seconday sources are great for learning about and collecting background information on different legal topics.

Examples of secondary sources: