Step 1: Secondary Sources - Books

Law Books

Tips for locating books in a library catalogue

  • Subject Headings: When searching the catalogue, follow the subject headings to find relevant material.
  • Title Keyword: try using general title words to pull up books in a certain area.
  • Sort: Use “sort” to show most recent books.
  • Advanced Search: use this to limit search to a specific library, subject heading, date range, etc.

Text Books and Treatises

  • Textbooks summarize single specific legal topics. Treatises include textbooks and cover broader subject areas. Both provide authoritative and thorough treatment of the subject area, and are useful to those unfamiliar with a subject area. In addition to a summary of and commentary on the law they will include tables of content, tables of cases and subject indexes.
  • In addition to print versions of the texts and treatises some are also available in electronic format. These will be searchable by subject, keyword, title, or author.
  • Textbooks and treatises are not primary sources of law; however, they can have persuasive authority, in the courts.
  • Once you have located some preliminary information in texts or treatises you will have know some of the expressions  or concepts that you will need to continue further with your research

Loose-leaf Services

  • The print versions are usually multi-volume sets (that come in binders) that contain the most current material about specific areas of the law, such as family law.
  • Subscribers are sent frequent update or replacement date-stamped pages that reflect any changes in law or legislation. As a result, a loose-leaf service is usually more current than a textbook or treatise. Loose-leafs can also contain expert commentary, relevant case citations and statutes/regulations.
  • The electronic versions are (usually available on Quicklaw/LexisNexis, Westlaw Canada or CCH Online) are browsable and full-text searchable. They may also contain links to cases and statutes where available.


  • Unlike textbooks, casebooks do not summarize or provide unique commentary on the law; instead they contain excerpts from cases, journal articles and treatises for discussion in class.

Law Reform Commissions Reports

  • Law Reform Commissions research and publish reports on various areas of law, particularly those that are changing or developing.
  • These reports are a good basis for historical research
  • The British Columbia Law Institute Law Reform Database provides a free and searchable index of law reform commission reports from Canada, the United States and Commonwealth countries. This database has over 7000 reports and is current to December 2010. Although it does not provide the full text reports, it does provide links to the originating agency
  • WorldLII. also provides a list of law reform commissions throughout the world 

Law Theses

  • Law theses are good sources of in-depth information.
  • Print copies of U of T law related masters and doctoral theses are kept at the Bora Laskin Law, top floor, Row 57. They can be located by searching the library catalogue
  • North American theses in all disciplines from 1997 onward are available online to U of T students through Proquest Dissertations & Theses: Full-text University of Toronto Law theses are also available through T-Space.