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Secondary Sources


In legal research, "secondary sources" refer to legal writing that does not emanate from the courts or the legislature, i.e. they are neither judges' decisions nor laws passed by a legislature. Secondary materials are the work of one or more authors who analyze the law from a given perspective. They include journal articles, monographs (which could be textbooks, case books, or treatises), collections of essays, government studies or reports, conference papers, and continuing legal education programs. Secondary sources in law depend largely on primary sources--new statutes and court decisions give rise to analysis and discussion in books and articles; likewise, legal drafters and judges may give considerable attention to what legal scholars have had to say about a particular subject. Nonetheless, legal texts and articles are "secondary" in that they are not law.

A. The Canadian Encyclopedic Digest

If you need a very general overview of a subject in Canadian law, particularly if no text has been published on the topic, try using the Canadian Encyclopedic Digest (C.E.D.). The Law Library subscribes to the Ontario edition of the C.E.D. in print, as well as the electronic version located in WestlawNext Canada that combines the Ontario and Western provinces' editions. This encyclopedia provides a brief overview of most major areas of law, as well as some more specialized topics. The C.E.D. approaches topics in less depth than a monograph on the same subject, but it will identify the issues and refer to the leading cases and statutes.  The C.E.D. is organized under broad subject headings, called titles, such as Arbitration, Bailment, or Copyright. These titles are further broken down into subheadings, allowing you to research broad or specific points of law. One note of caution: some parts of the C.E.D. are not as up-to-date as others, so always check the currency of the information in your particular section. 

The C.E.D. In Print

The Research Guide and Key and Index volumes are useful to find the appropriate title. For example, the "Table of Statutes" contained within the Research Guide and Key indicates where a particular section of an Ontario or federal statute is discussed in the encyclopedia. The "Index Key" provides a subject index and extensive network of cross-references to all published titles.

Each volume of the C.E.D. has its own table of contents, table of cases, and table of statutes. The main text of each title is printed on white pages. Update your topic by checking the relevant paragraph numbers from the main title in the Supplement (pages at the beginning of each title).

The C.E.D. on WestlawNext Canada

The advantage of electronic searching is that you can quickly do a search without having to ascertain the appropriate title or paragraph numbers, and you can combine search terms. You can also browse the C.E.D.'s table of contents electronically.

B. Halsbury's Laws of Canada

LexisNexis has recently introduced a similar product to the C.E.D. called Halsbury's Laws of Canada. Unlike the C.E.D., each volume is hardbound, rather than in loose-leaf format, and is updated with supplements. Each volume covers one or more subject areas, and has a table of contents, table of cases, index, a short bibliography and a glossary of terms. Within the volume, major paragraphs give statements of law, while minor paragraphs give jurisdictional information. Like the C.E.D., Halsbury's also points out significant cases and statutes for each area of law. There are 76 volumes in total.

C. Monographs

Legal treatises dealing with broader areas of the law often provide a useful introduction when researching. A well-referenced book serves as a starting point from which you can move on to periodical articles, cases and statutes. To keep information up-to-date, law publishers are increasingly issuing texts in loose-leaf format (book-sized binders which allow pages with out-of-date information to be replaced periodically by newer pages with up-to-date information). There are bound and loose-leaf texts dealing with many topics, including volumes dedicated to the consideration of particular statutes. The latter will typically include the full text of the statute(s) in addition to commentary, history, and references to judicial consideration of the statute(s). This is often called an "annotation."

In addition to the titles issued by commercial publishers, a lot of useful literature is published by professional associations. The Canadian Bar Association and the Law Society of Upper Canada, for example, regularly publish seminar papers. Government publications, such as those from law reform commissions, justice departments and government inquiries, are also good sources for discussion of legal topics, including proposed changes to the law.

D. Journal Literature

Law journals are a rich source of scholarly writing. Specialized topics which are too narrow for publication as monographs are typically published in law journals. Although some are published commercially, many emanate from law schools, and include articles on a broad range of subjects. The Queen's Law Library has a journal collection which includes titles from Canada, the United States, and other countries. Our bound journals are arranged alphabetically in the stacks on the basement level. In addition, access to thousands of additional journals is available via electronic databases such as WestlawNext Canada, LexisNexis Quicklaw, and HeinOnline.

E.  Finding Books and Articles in the Law Library

Locating secondary materials is not always as straightforward as tracking down a case or a statute. One of the first places to start is with QCAT, the Queen's University library catalogue (see below). Most of the monographs in our collection, unlike law reports, statutes and journals, can be borrowed from the library.

Books that might not be in the Queen's library catalogue but which are available in the catalogues of other Canadian law schools are still accessible--Queen's University Library has a reciprocal borrowing/photocopying arrangement with other Canadian university libraries that facilitates the exchange of materials. You can request a book through Interlibrary Loan (ILL) via QCAT by clicking on the "Interlibrary Loan (RACER)" from the top of the catalogue search screen.

As noted above, online database systems such as WestlawNext Canada, LexisNexis Quicklaw, and other internet subscription services, are also a major part of the electronic library collection which provides access to full-text books and journal articles.


QCAT, the Queen's University Library system catalogue, allows for seamless access to the library system's numerous electronic subscriptions: catalogue records for e-journals and e-books are linked so that you can go directly to the full text of the item itself. Start by searching for the journal title in the catalogue. If Queen's has this journal available electronically, the catalogue will indicate this.

Accessing Other Library Catalogues

By clicking on the Other Library Catalogues link from the Queen's Libraries home page you are able to access and search a wide variety of other university, government and public library catalogues. Searching other university catalogues can be useful as a follow-up to using QCAT. This will give you an idea of the materials held by other libraries that you can request through ILL.

Appendix C of this manual provides guides to searching QCAT.

Summon is a search tool that enables you to search across the library catalogue and many of the library's electronic resources from a single search box. With Summon, you can find and access library content – print and electronic books, single articles to entire e-journals, newspapers, theses, media and more. A word of caution: Summon's coverage of electronic materials owned or licensed by the library is not complete. There may be important content on your research topic that is not captured by Summon. It is strongly recommended that you conduct searches in other relevant legal databases in addition to Summon.


Periodical indexes provide information on various types of legal literature including journal articles, books, conference proceedings, collections of essays, and book reviews. Indexes usually provide the titles, names of authors, and citations for these materials. While most not always have access to the full-text of the article (although this is slowly changing), their advantage is their comprehensiveness. This means that once you have located titles of articles which interest you, you will still have to find the actual volumes which contain them (or some other electronic source which will give you access to the entire article). However, most indexes are linked into Queen's Library system.  Once you've found an article title, click on the "Get it at Queen's" button, and if Queen's has access to that article, you'll be taken to it. Prominent indexes are accessible directly from the Lederman Law Library homepage.

There are four principal sources for full-text law journal articles: the journal collection in the Law Library, full-text titles on legal database and/or indexing systems (LexisNexis Quicklaw, WestlawNext Canada, LegalTrac, Index to Legal Periodicals), other electronic subscriptions offered through Queen's library, and finally, through ILL (through which you request a copy of the article from another library which has it).


Index to Canadian Legal Literature

The ICLL is the only comprehensive index to Canadian journal articles, books, conference proceedings, collections of essays, and book reviews in the field of law and law-related topics.

Available from LeixsNexis Quicklaw or WestlawNext Canada
In Print: located in the Law Library's Reference Section

Index to Legal Periodicals 

The Index to Legal Periodicals indexes over 1000 legal journals, yearbooks, institutes, bar association journals, university publications and law reviews, and government publications from the United States, Puerto Rico, Great Britain, Ireland, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. The database also indexes approximately 1,400 monographs per year.

Available from QCAT through Ebsco; August 1981-

Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals

The Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals is produced by the American Association of Law Libraries and indexes articles published in hundreds of legal journals emanating from countries around the world. Articles about the legal systems and practices of all countries are indexed EXCEPT for those pertaining to the common law systems of Australia, the British Isles, Canada, New Zealand and the United States.

IFLP provides in-depth coverage of international, comparative and foreign law in many languages. Also indexed are individually published collections of legal essays, festschriften, and congress reports. Updated several times a year.

Available from QCAT through HeinOnline; 1985-
In Print: located in the Law Library's Storage area: 1960/62-1998.

LegalTrac (Infotrac)

Legaltrac indexes approximately 875 titles including major law reviews, legal newspapers, bar association journals and international legal journals. LegalTrac also contains law-related articles from over 1,000 additional business and general interest titles. It has excellent international English language periodical coverage and includes abstracts and some full-text articles in many citations.

Available from QCAT through Gale; 1980-

CBCA (Canadian Business and Current Affairs)

CBCA Fulltext Reference contains citations and full-text articles in hundreds of Canadian periodicals as well as several Canadian daily news sources. CBCA also contains the full text of selected articles from many of the journals indexed. 

Available from QCAT through ProQuest; 1982- 

Canadian Law Symposia Index (CLSI)

CLSI is an index to papers presented at legal seminars and continuing legal education conferences since 1986.

Available from LexisNexis Quicklaw; 1986-


LexisNexis Quicklaw and WestlawNext Canada, in addition to carrying the ICLL database described above, have several law review full text databases, a selection of which are listed below. The journals are also searchable individually. Be careful to check the beginning date of coverage for each law journal.

LexisNexis Quicklaw

All Canadian Legal Journals Alberta Law Review
Appeal: Review of Current Law and Law Reform (CA)
Asper Review of International Business and Trade Law (CA)
Canada-United States Law Journal
Canadian Journal of Family Law
Canadian Journal of Law and Jurisprudence
Dalhousie Law Journal
Health Law Journal
Health Law Review
HIV/AIDS Policy and Law Review
Indigenous Law Journal
Journal of Law & Equality
Les Cahiers de droit
Manitoba Law Journal
McGill International Journal of Sustainable Development Law and Policy
McGill Journal of Law and Health (f/k/a McGill Health Law Publication)
McGill Law Journal

Osgoode Hall Law Journal
Ottawa Law Review
Queen's Law Journal
Revue de droit de l'Université de Sherbrooke
Revue juridique Thémis
Revue québécoise de droit international
Revue VIH/sida, droit et politiques
Saskatchewan Law Review
Supreme Court Law Review
The Advocates' Journal (f/k/a The Advocates' Society Journal)
University of British Columbia Law Review
University of New Brunswick Law Journal
University of Ottawa Law & Technology Journal*
University of Toronto Faculty of Law Review
University of Toronto Law Journal
Windsor Review of Legal and Social Issues
Windsor Yearbook of Access to Justice

US Law Reviews and Journals, Combined Contains hundreds of American law reviews and law journals
UK Journals Index British law reviews, journals, and current awareness services
Australian Law Journals, Combined Australian Bar Review
Australian Journal of Corporate Law
Australian Journal of Family Law
Australian Journal of Labour Law
Australian Property Law Journal
CaseBase Journal Articles
Competition & Consumer Law Journal
Insurance Law Journal
Media & Arts Law Review
Torts Law Journal


WestlawNext Canada

Journals & Law Reviews (Canadian)
  • Asper Review of International Business and Trade Law 2001-
  • Banking and Finance Law Review (Canada) 1997-
  • Canadian Criminal Law Review 1998-
  • Canadian Family Law Quarterly 1996-
  • Canadian Journal of Administrative Law & Practice 1997-
  • Canadian Journal of Family Law 1991-
  • Canadian Journal of Law & Jurisprudence 1994-
  • Canadian Journal of Law & Society 1993-
  • Canada-United States Law Journal 1983-
  • Education and Law Journal (Canada) 1995-
  • Indigenous Law Journal 2002-
  • Insolvency Institute of Canada materials 1992-
  • Intellectual Property Journal (Canada) 1997-
  • Journal of Business Valuation (Canada) 1997-
  • Journal of Environmental Law and Practice (Canada) 1997-
  • Journal of International Law and International Relations 2005- 
  • Journal of Parliamentary and Political Law 2008-
  • Journal of the Canadian College of Construction Lawyers 2009-
  • McGill Journal of Law & Health 2007-
  • McGill Law Journal 1993-
  • National Journal of Constitutional Law (Canada) 1997-
  • Osgoode Hall Law Journal 2000-
  • Ottawa Law Review 2005-
  • Queen's Law Journal 1996-
  • Revue de droit de l’Université de Sherbrooke 2002-
  • Revue juridique Thémis 1999-
  • Saskatchewan Law Review 1993-
  • University of New Brunswick Law Journal 1993-
  • University of Ottawa Law & Technology Journal 2003-
  • University of Toronto Faculty of Law Review 2001-
  • University of Toronto Law Journal 1996-
  • Windsor Review of Legal and Social Issues 2004-
  • Windsor Yearbook of Access to Justice 1993-

United States - Texts & Periodicals (from the WestlawNext Canada tab)

extensive holdings of U.S. law reviews, legal texts, legal encyclopedias, CLE materials, etc.
United Kingdom - Journals and Law Reviews
(Database UK-JLR from the WestlawNext Canada tab)
British law reviews and journals from Oxford University Press and Sweet & Maxwell




HeinOnline provides retrospective coverage of hundreds of core American, Canadian, and international journals beginning with volume 1. The articles are displayed in .pdf, making citation easier.



This is a bibliographic database which cites articles from legal periodicals and indexes law books published in 1993 and later. Full text coverage for selected periodicals is also included. Periodical coverage includes law reviews, bar association journals, university publications, yearbooks, institutes, and government publications. Index to Legal Periodicals covers all areas of jurisprudence, including recent court decisions, new legislation, and original scholarship.


JSTOR gives full text access of hundreds of journals in a variety of disciplines, including Law. Its focus is retrospective coverage, rather than currency.



Other legal indexes and databases are available through the Lederman Law Library Electronic Sources page and the Queen's Library Databases page. 


With the increasing availability of computerized indexes, it is important not to overlook the print tools still available in the Law Library. All of the print indexes described below are in the Reference Section of the Law Library unless otherwise indicated.

Index to Canadian Legal Literature

The print version of this index has recently been republished and consolidated for the years 1985-2000. Supplements bring the content up to date. The original three volumes cover legal literature up to 1984. The ICLL is considerably more comprehensive than the Index to Canadian Legal Periodical Literature (see below), and includes government documents, continuing legal education papers and other "grey literature".

Index to Canadian Legal Periodical Literature

This is the oldest continuously published index to Canadian legal literature. It is released quarterly in cumulative soft covers, with a bound volume for each year. In addition to journal articles, essays, case comments and book reviews are also indexed. It is available only in print. Our holdings cover 1961-2003.


Last Updated: 31 July 2015

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