Legal Research and Periodical Literature

Legal research involves finding "authority" that will aid in finding a solution to a legal problem. This can often involve locating the latest information on a particular topic and so it becomes mandatory to refer to some of the latest periodicals and journals on the subject. Law resources are useful for attorneys, educators, business people, law librarians, students and paralegals. How do we choose the right periodical? There are so many categories of periodicals and each comes with a distinct character and level of information.

While using online or offline resources from major libraries, one must be aware of the different levels of scholarships that are associated with different categories of periodicals. Online resources must be updated on a daily basis to be relevant. The four basic types of categories of periodicals are,

Scholarly journals

Substantive, News/General Interest


The word scholarly is mainly concerned with research and academic study, and has the attitude and characteristics of a scholar. It is often accompanied by an abstract or a summary of the article. Thus the scholarly journals

Are written

Have the purpose of reporting original research

Always cite sources

Always list the author's credentials

Have a serious look with very few flashy pictures

Uses a disciplinary style of language
While substantive periodicals are publications meant for an educated audience they contain illustrations and photographs and are made to look attractive with the objective to provide information in a general manner. Information got from a popular magazine is never original but always second or third hand and will never cite the source. Sensational publications assume certain gullibility in their audience and often use inflammatory language and cannot be depended upon for facts.

While doing legal research it would be best to get a reference book that describes and evaluates all the periodicals in a library. There are international law directories that have indexed resources from scholarly articles, symposia, jurisdictional surveys, court decisions, legislation, books and book reviews.

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