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First Year Legal Research Guide: Treatises

This Guide tracks the Fall Basic Legal Research Course at Loyola University Chicago's School of Law

  Print Access

You can find treatises shelved with other material on the same subject matter on the 5th floor of the Library.  Loyola's online catalog is the primary tool for locating treatises that the Law Library owns.  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").

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.

A Treatise


Westlaw/LexisNexis Access

Both Westlaw and Lexis also contain treatises, and the Library's online catalog contains records for those.  If Loyola has electronic access to a treatise, its catalog record will contain a direct link to the online treatise (e.g., Nimmer on Copyright).

So when you see a Westlaw or Lexis link in a description of a treatise in the catalog, use that link to get to the Westlaw or Lexis sign-in screen.  After you enter your Lexis or Westlaw password, you will immediately be transferred into the database containing the treatise. Remember, though, that if a treatise is published in print by Lexis Publishing, it won't be available in Westlaw (and vice-versa)!



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 of books.  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.

A treatise can be an extremely useful secondary source for research because it collects detailed information on a particular legal topic or issue in one publication. Plus, like all of the most useful secondary sources, treatises contain a wealth of references and citations to related primary authorities (cases, statutes, and administrative rules and regulations), and they also contain analysis of, and often commentary on, the law in that area. Therefore, finding a treatise covering an unfamiliar area of law that you have been assigned to research can be a great time saver.

  How to Use

How you use a treatise can vary depending on its form: a single volume, a multi-volume set of books, a hardbound book versus a collection of loose-leaf pages in binder form, etc. There are, however, certain features common to treatises that allow you to locate the particular information you need within their contents. Those features are the index and the table of contents. The descriptions that follow refer to the places they appear in print treatises.  If you are reading a treatise in Westlaw or Lexis, you can still use these tools instead of searching the full text of the treatise. Look for a "TOC" link (often in the upper right of your screen). Within that table of contents, you often will also find an "index" entry.

The index is the collection of terms, in alphabetical order, that appears at the end of the treatise's substantive contents.  Some multi-volume treatises contain an index at the end of each print volume, covering that volume's contents; others contain only one large index at the end of the last volume in the set. To use the index, look through the list for terms that represent the type of content you seek.  Then note the parts of the treatise - usually given as page numbers - to which those terms direct you.  When a treatise is large, you may be given volume numbers as well as page numbers.  Also, some indexes direct you to sections or paragraphs of a treatise, rather than to particular pages.  So make sure you understand what the references in the index mean.

The other common tool for zeroing in on the information that you are looking for in a treatise is the table of contents near the front of the treatise. Much like a table of contents for any book that you have read, a legal treatise's table of contents will list the chapters of the treatise and will indicate the page on which each chapter starts. Some tables of contents are very basic; others are very detailed. A detailed table of contents is obviously the best for discerning which part of the treatise contains the particular information of use to you. However, any table of contents will help you to quickly separate irrelevant parts of the treatise from those that matter to your research.

Finally, some large multi-volume treatises contain instructions, or "How to Use This Publication" sections at the beginning of the set. Look for such instructions when confronted with a treatise that is so complex that it seems overwhelming.


Subject Guide

Patricia Scott's picture
Patricia Scott
Director, Law Library & Clinical Professor of Law

Philip H. Corboy Law Center

25 E. Pearson St.

Chicago, IL 60611

(312) 915-8515

  How to Cite

While you generally will not cite to a treatise in a court document, rule B15 (Bluepages) of The Bluebook (20th edition) describes how to do so. The following example is included in rule B15.1:

21 Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1006 (3d ed. 1998).

The components of the citation are, in order:  the single volume number of a multi-volume work (if applicable); the full name(s) of the author(s) as written in the publication; the title; a pincite (the page or section number cited); and a parenthetical indicating the year of publication, the name of the editor (if any), and the edition (if more than one).

The Bluebook notes that the Bluepages retain the tradition of underlining certain text, but italics may be substituted wherever underlining is used in the Bluepages as long as the use is consistent (see p. 3).

For general information on pinpoint citations ("pincites"), see rule B10.1.2 (Bluepages) and rule 3.2 (Whitepages).

For further guidance on citing to books and other nonperiodic materials, see rule 15 (Whitepages).