A treaty is an international agreement concluded between two or more sovereign states in written form and governed by international law, whether embodied in a single instrument or in two or more related instruments. Treaties go by many names: conventions, agreements, covenants, pacts, charters, and statutes, among others. The choice of name has no legal significance. Treaties usually fall into one of two broad categories: bilateral (between two countries) and multilateral (between three or more countries).
The four steps of the treaty research process are outlined below. The sources you consult will vary, depending on whether the treaty is bilateral or multilateral and on whether or not the the U.S. is a party to the treaty.
As print resources have migrated online, it is now often possible to perform the first two or three steps of the treaty research process by using a single online treaty database, such as the U.N. Treaty Collection or HeinOnline's U.S. Treaties and Agreements Library.
In addition, many subject-specific treaty collections that focus on a single topic or group of related topics are available online. If you are researching a multilateral treaty, it is often faster to use one of these subject-specific online treaty collections as your starting point rather than to follow the conventional four-step treaty research process.