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Secondary Sources Research Guide

This guide explains various types of secondary sources, including legal encyclopedias and American Law Reports, and how to use them.


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What is an A.L.R. Annotation?

A.L.R. is the acronym for American Law Reports. A.L.R. annotations (articles) provide a very useful summary and analysis of the law in a specific area, and include citations to relevant primary law and other secondary sources. If there is an A.L.R. annotation on your topic, it can save you a great deal of time by identifying these key sources, as well as giving you an overview of the current state of the law. Like legal encyclopedias, A.L.R. annotations are updated. A.L.R. annotations 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 A.L.R. annotation for every topic.

Why Use an A.L.R. Annotation?

If you find an A.L.R. 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). A.L.R. annotations also identify other secondary sources, such as legal encyclopedias, treatises, and periodicals. 

Using an A.L.R. Annotation

American Law Reports can be found in the Reading Room on the second floorThere are ten A.L.R. series: American Law Reports, 1stAmerican Law Reports, 2dAmerican Law Reports, 3dAmerican Law Reports, 4thAmerican Law Reports, 5thAmerican Law Reports, 6th; American Law Reports, 7thAmerican Law Reports, FederalAmerican Law Reports, Federal 2d; American Law Reports, Federal 3dThe first and second series are now used mostly for historical perspective, while current information is found in the remaining series. 

If you're researching in print, use the general indices at the end of the A.L.R. volumes to find annotations. ALR Quick Index covers the 3d, 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th series, and ALR Federal Quick Index covers the federal series. A separate index covers the 1st and 2d series. A.L.R. annotations are updated annually using pocket parts, so be sure to check the back of the volume you are using.

For online access:


American Law Reports Tutorial

Running time: 2:46 minutes

Created/updated: May 2019
Last reviewed: May 2019

A.L.R. (Print)

A.L.R. (Online)