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Basic & Background Sources for International & Foreign Legal Research: Start Your Research

Where to Start

When researching international and foreign law, there are some basic sources that you will use frequently and should get to know. Basic tools or background sources provide a variety of necessary information before or in connection with in-depth research. This short guide highlights international and foreign legal sources but is by no means a complete list of essential tools.

  • Research guides:  provide links to resources like relevant websites and research methodology.
  • Dictionaries, encyclopedias, and study aids define terms and provide context. 
  • Directories provide websites for organizational information.
  • Abbreviations/Acronyms resources decipher international or foreign legal acronyms 
  • Secondary sources such as treatises, topical books, and journal articles provide in-depth analysis.

Examine these sources and determine which are most useful for your research.  

Other Foreign and International Law Library Research Guides

Research guides are good places to start your research.  These guides identify relevant sources and websites as well as explain how to research a specific topic or organization. To locate more guides, search Google using the name of the organization and "research guide."

International Business Litigation and Arbitration

International Organizations

Armed Conflict

Refugee and Asylum Law

Library Catalogs, Databases, Indexes

Search the library's catalog using keywords or advanced search fields.  

Indexes provide more concise search results by allowing searches by subject.  These two indexes allow searches of English language publications and publications from across the world, including English-speaking countries like the U.S.

Index to Legal Periodicals


Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals (IFLP).  Here is a brief introduction to using IFLP:


Databases collect materials such as cases, data, or legislation not readily available from a catalog search.  

Law Library Catalog

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