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Basic Legal Research Guide: Treatises

This Guide (formerly known as the First Year Legal Research Guide) tracks the Fall Basic Legal Research Course at Loyola University Chicago's School of Law

  Print Access

Treatises are shelved with other material on the same subject matter on the 5th floor of the Law Library. Loyola's online catalog is the primary tool for identifying and locating treatises. 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 title containing an author's name on a subject (e.g., Williston on Contracts, Appleman on Insurance, Nimmer on Copyright, etc.), it's most likely a treatise.

A Treatise


Westlaw/LexisNexis Access

Both Westlaw and Lexis contain treatises, and the Library's online catalog often contains bibliographic records for them. If the Loyola libraries provide electronic access to a treatise, the title's catalog record should contain a direct link to it (e.g., Nimmer on Copyright).

So, when you see a Westlaw or Lexis link in a description of a treatise in the online library catalog, use that link to reach the Westlaw or Lexis sign-in screen. After you enter your Lexis or Westlaw password, you should immediately be transferred to the database containing the treatise. Remember, though, that if a treatise is published in print by Lexis, 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 standard format for treatises. Some are one-volume monographs, while others are multivolume sets. Some are updated yearly with softbound supplements or pocket parts, while others contain loose-leaf pages that are updated more frequently. Making the research task more difficult is the fact that most treatises don't contain the word "treatise" in their titles.

A treatise can serve as 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 and commentary on the law in that area. Therefore, finding a treatise covering an unfamiliar area of law can be a great time-saver for legal researchers.

  How to Use

How you use a treatise can vary depending on its form: be it a single volume, a multivolume 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 specific information. These features are the index and the table of contents. The descriptions below refer to the places these tools 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 on the upper right side of your screen). Within that table of contents, you will usually find an "index" entry.

The index is a collection of terms in alphabetical order that appears at the end of a treatise's substantive content. Some multivolume treatises contain an index at the end of each print volume; 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 information you seek. Then, note the associated parts of the treatise, which are usually given as page numbers. When a treatise is large, the index may provide associated volume numbers as well as page numbers. Also, some indexes direct you to sections or paragraphs of a treatise rather than specific pages, so make sure you understand what the references in the index mean.

The other common tool for pinpointing the information you need in a treatise is the table of contents, which appears near the front of the treatise. 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 basic, while others are very detailed. A detailed table of contents is obviously the best for discerning which part of the treatise contains the particular information you seek. However, any table of contents will help you quickly identify the parts of the treatise that matter to your research.

Finally, some large multivolume treatises contain instructions or "How to Use this Publication" sections at the beginning of the set. Look for such instructions when confronted with a complex treatise that seems overwhelming.


Subject Guide

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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 (21st edition) describes how to do so. The following example is included in rule B15.1 (see p. 23):

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); a parenthetical indicating the year of publication; the name of the editor (if any); the edition (if more than one).

The Bluebook notes that the Bluepages retain the tradition of underlining certain text, although italics are considered to be equivalent (see p. 6).

For further guidance on citing to books and other nonperiodic materials, see rule 15 (Whitepages). To cite to a treatise in an academic work, The Bluebook provides this example (see p. 148):