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Georgetown Law Library

Secondary Sources Research Guide

This guide explains various types of secondary sources and how to use them.

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What is ALR?

ALR is the acronym for American Law Reports. Although similar to legal encyclopedias, ALR annotations (articles) cover more specific legal issues and in greater depth than do encyclopedias. Generally, they focus on rapidly developing or controversial areas of law, so you will not find an ALR for every topic.

Why Use ALR?

If you find an ALR covering your topic, it is a great starting point for research. In addition to providing a summary of the legal issue, the Table of Cases, Laws, and Rules gives you a snapshot of the law across jurisdictions (federal, state, and foreign). ALR annotations also identify other secondary sources, such as legal encyclopedias, treatises, and periodicals. 

Using ALR

There are eight ALR series: —American Law Reports, 1stAmerican Law Reports, 2dAmerican Law Reports, 3dAmerican Law Reports, 4thAmerican Law Reports, 5thAmerican Law Reports, 6thAmerican Law Reports, FederalAmerican Law Reports, Federal 2dThe first and second series are now used mostly for historical perspective, while current useful information is found in the remaining series. 

Use the general indices at the end of the ALR volumes to find annotations. A single index covers the 2d, 3d, 4th, 5th, 6th, and federal series. A separate index covers the 1st series. ALR annotations are updated annually using pocket parts, so be sure to check the back of the volume you are using.

ALR Tutorial

Running time: 2:46 minutes

Created/updated: August 2016
Last reviewed: May 2018

ALR Online

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