Legal research materials are generally classified as being either one of two types of sources: primary or secondary. Primary sources are “the law” itself, which we are bound to follow. Secondary sources are materials about the law; they explain and help us to find “the law” in a given situation. Although secondary sources, sometimes called “persuasive,” are very useful in legal research, and courts often consider them, no one is legally bound by them.
Any legal research project will likely require the use of both primary and secondary sources. You can learn more about accessing primary and secondary sources at the Law Library and online in the guides listed below. For a fuller listing of primary law sources, including many free online sources, visit our “Finding Primary Law” page.