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United States: legal resources: Legal research, citation and abbreviations

Subjects: American Studies, Law

Legal research

Many books have been written on U.S. legal research, but the first three listed below stand out as comprehensive treatises on the subject.  They include detailed descriptions of all categories of U.S. legal literature, together with an overview of the legal and political system in which the literature has been produced.  Two shorter works are also listed.

It is immediately apparent from the publication dates of the first three works that the emphasis on electronic research will vary enormously.  Nonetheless, legal literature developed over several hundred years through the medium of the printed page, and much of what is electronically available is simply an electronic version of material that first appeared in print.  So even a book that is oriented chiefly toward paper-based research can be very useful in understanding the type of literature that is available and the context in which it was published.

The works listed here are a very small selection from the library's collection.

Legal citation style

The most important guide to American legal citation and style has long been The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation.  It was compiled by the editors of the (student-edited) law reviews at several of the most well-known American law schools, and was originally (in 1926) called simply A Uniform System of Citation. However, it has long been known as "The Bluebook", and since 1991 this has been part of the title. "Bluebook style" is required in much legal literature and in many official documents. 

Recently, another guide, published by the Association of Legal Writing Directors (ALWD Citation Manual), has come into use, though it has not attained the currency of The Bluebook.  Its style is broadly similar to that of The Bluebook, but it attempts to simplify the rules and to simplify its own style of presentation.

The shelf mark USA 450 can be found on Level 3 - after the sequence of post 1999 USA law journals at USA 300.

Legal abbreviations: printed resources

The works listed below are comprehensive indexes of legal abbreviations with substantial coverage of U.S. legal literature.  Additionally, substantial indexes can be found in The Bluebook, in ALWD Citation Manual, and in two of the treatises (by Barkan et al. and by Price et al.) listed on this page under "Legal research".