University of Wisconsin–Madison

Final Research Tip for 3Ls: Why a Print Treatise Has Value for Legal Research

Today, legal professionals can access case law, statutes, and legal citators electronically and feel confident that the electronic version is faster, more convenient and in many cases, cheaper.  But researchers agree that a legal treatise is still valuable as a print resource, even as more treatises are being made available online.  So why does a print version of a legal treatise remain popular with the legal community in today's online environment? 

One reason is that each legal treatise is written or edited by an expert with a thorough understanding of the material.  This expert can be viewed as a guide through what can be an intimidating amount of information published in any given field of law.  Next, a legal treatise provide  the professional with quick access to reliable information on topic, and in many instances, is more cost-effective in print. 

Finally, print provides a browse feature that is still difficult to duplicate in the online environment.  Although keyword searching online is a great way to get relevant information on your topic, the challenge of keyword searching is finding the right terms, and if you aren't able to come up with those terms then vital information may be missed.

Fortunately, a print treatise by design is more forgiving.  Someone new to the field can browse a chapter or section on a specific topic and find information even when they don't know the exact phrase or terms to use.   Often the browse-ability feature of print will lead to valuable information that is right on topic.

How do you locate a legal treatise on your topic at the Law Library?

Many topical treatises are featured in the Law Library's Research Guides, located under the tab for "Help and Guidance," at the Law Library's home page.  If you know the title, you can search the library catalog, MadCat.  If you don't know the title or if you are having trouble locating a guide, ask for help at the Law Library reference desk located on the 5th floor of the Law Library across from the circulation desk.

Submitted by Jenny Zook, Reference Librarian on April 29, 2010

This article appears in the categories: Law Library

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