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Legal Research FAQs: Locating Treatises


A legal treatise is a comprehensive publication on a single topic, usually written by a law professor, judge, or expert practitioner in the field.  Unfortunately, there is no single standard format for treatises.  Some are one-volume monographs, while others are multi-volume sets.  Some are updated yearly with softbound supplements or pocket parts, while others contain loose-leaf pages that are updated more frequently.  Making the task more difficult is the fact that most treatises don't contain the word "Treatise" in their titles.  This page contains a few tips you can use to locate treatises in Loyola's Law Library.

Locating a Treatise on a Given Subject

Loyola's online catalog is the primary tool for locating treatises which the Law Library owns in print.  Since the word "treatise" is unlikely to appear in the title, your best bet may be to construct a search using the subject matter (e.g. "contracts", "torts", "trademarks").  At the very least, this method will get you to the call number range for your subject, and from there you can browse the shelves to look for treatises.  One handy tip - if you find a work with an author's name on a subject (e.g. Williston on Contracts, Appleman on Insurance, Nimmer on Copyright), it's most likely a treatise.

You can also use an online guide to determine if there's a treatise in your subject area and, if so, what its title is.  For example, both Harvard's Law Library and Georgetown's Law Library provide online treatise finders that allow you to search for treatises by subject.  Once you have the title, you can check our library catalog to determine if Loyola owns a copy.

If Loyola doesn't own a print copy of a treatise, don't despair - treatises are also available in electronic format in both Westlaw and Lexis.  See each provider's directory or search by topic for specific titles and database identifiers.  Remember that if a treatise is published in print by Lexis Publishing, it won't be available in Westlaw (and vice-versa), so to make sure you don't miss an online version of a treatise you should check our library catalog.  If Loyola has electronic access to a treatise in Lexis or Westlaw, there will be a record in the catalog that contains a direct link to the online treatise (see, e.g. Nimmer on Copyright).  To access these online treatises you will need your own Lexis or Westlaw ID and password.

If you're looking for something that's not quite as scholarly, another approach would be to do an "Advanced Search" in the catalog with the subject matter along with the word "hornbook" or "nutshell".  West publishes a Hornbook Series that provides useful introductory treatments of specified subjects along with summaries and analysis of the major cases you would see if you took a Law School course in that subject.  Similarly, titles in West's Nutshell Series provide basic, easy to understand summaries of topics ranging from the very general (e.g. Real Property in a Nutshell) to the very specific (e.g. Coastal and Ocean Management Law in a Nutshell).  Both series are available in the Law Library's Academic Success collection (3rd floor, near the Reference Desk).