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Georgetown Law Library

Constitutional Law and History Research Guide

This guide covers sources that are useful for researching Constitutional law and Constitutional history.

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Introduction

This guide provides an introduction to resources for conducting constitutional law research available at Georgetown University and online. The U.S. Constitution is widely considered the world's oldest constitutional document still in force today. The broad topic of “constitutional law” deals with the interpretation and implementation of the United States Constitution and covers a wide variety of areas, from the body of law that regulates the federal, state, and local governments of the United States to the fundamental rights of the individual in relation to both federal and state government.

It is important to remember that conducting research on constitutional law, as with many other areas of the law, is not so much an endeavor in finding answers as it is discovering different approaches and learning the sources that guide constitutional interpretation (the text of the Constitution, intention of the framers, case precedent, historical, economic, and political trends, and policy implications of conflicting interpretations).

Given the breadth and diversity of this topic, we typically recommend that you start your research with secondary sources such as treatises or legal encyclopedias to help you more quickly identify the focus of your research.  Practice materials, legal news sources, and law review journals are also discussed on that page.  This research guide also includes information on the historical background and amendments to the U.S. Constitution, resources for understanding approaches to constitutional interpretation, and material on state constitutional research.

As the U.S. Supreme Court plays an integral role in interpreting the Constitution, the study of this area also focuses heavily on the Supreme Court justices and the Court’s rulings. For more information on primary and secondary materials relating to the Supreme Court, consult the Supreme Court Research Guide.

A Note on the Text of the U.S. Constitution

The text of the U.S. Constitution is widely available through a variety of sources. Searching for the text of the Constitution affords a rare case in which a simple web search for "constitution" will suffice. Most sources will work as well as another because unlike references to statutes, court decisions or most other authorities, Bluebook rules provide that a citation to a current state or federal constitution need not provide a source or a date.

That said, the following are select sources of the text of the Constitution:

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Updated History

Revised 12/08 (MK); 04/10 (RR)
Links 10/13(CC)