International legal research guide to help you form a research strategy and find appropriate sources

International Legal Research


Source: Contributors: Gallagher Law Librarians Jonathan Franklin, Ann Hemmens, Peggy Roebuck Jarrett, Cheryl Rae Nyberg, and Mary Whisner.

  1. Introduction
  2. Definitions
  3. Research Strategy
  4. Library Departments and Branches
  5. Electronic Sources
  6. Research Guides and Bibliographies–International Law
  7. Research Guides and Bibliographies–Foreign Law
  8. Language
  9. Directories
  10. Library Catalogs
  11. Periodicals
  12. Treaties and Other International Agreements
  13. Custom, Principles, Teachings
  14. International Cases
  15. United Nations
  16. Intergovernmental Organizations (IGOs)
  17. European Union
  18. Foreign Law Research
  19. Federal Legislative Materials


 Updated March 5, 2002; MW.

When you research international or foreign law, you will look for and use different types of information: laws, cases, and regulations from national bodies; practice guides or overviews of legal topics; scholarly discussions of the law; news stories; policy studies.

You will find this information in different types of sources (or formats): books, periodicals, microfiche and microfilm, locally mounted databases, commercial online services, Internet sites.

And you will obtain those sources in different locations, using different methods: at this library, at other libraries on campus, through interlibrary loan, on library terminals, through your own computer, in the Computer Lab.

What this means is that you may need to be creative and flexible in your research and to plan ahead in order to gather the materials you need. Be prepared for the limitations of any library you use.

You can expect your county law library to have your state’s statutes, but it will not have statutes for all the countries of the world. Even very large law libraries cannot have deep collections for all jurisdictions. For example, the Gallagher Law Library has very strong collections for China, Japan, and Korea, but has very little for most Latin American countries.

Use research guides to help you form a research strategy and find appropriate sources.

Use secondary sources to get an overview of a topic and to find citations to other sources. Consider when you can and cannot compromise — e.g., do you need the current text of a statute or would you be satisfied with a summary that is a few years old?



 Updated Aug. 28, 2003; MW.

Foreign Law
The domestic law of a country other than your own.
Comparative Law
Study comparing the laws of two or more countries or two or more legal systems. This often includes the study of foreign law — to find articles about foreign law, you may need to use the terms “comparative law” or “comparative method” in some indexes.
Public International Law
Rules dealing with the relations between two or more states (i.e., countries).
Rules dealing with some relations between states and persons (e.g., human rights)
Rules dealing with international organizations.
International economic law is the branch that deals with economic exchanges between states � it may include monetary law, trade law, customs law.
Sources of international law
(1) international conventions (treaties)
(2) international custom, as evidence of a general practice accepted as law
(3) the general principles of law recognized by civilized nations
(4) judicial decisions and teachings of the most highly qualified publicists of the various nations. Article 38 of the Statute of the International Court of Justice.
Private International Law (Conflict of Laws)
Rules dealing with relations among individuals that have an international element, typically rules concerning which country�s laws apply to a particular dispute.
Soft Law
�Guidelines, policy declarations, or codes of conduct that set standards of conduct but are not directly enforceable.� Black�s Law Dictionary (7th ed. 2000).
Transnational Law
Rules governing certain disputes that are accepted regardless of national jurisdiction.
Some people promote this as a solution to some problems of international commercial law: contracting parties from different countries would both be bound by this transnational law, rather than by the law of either party�s country.
Some writers refer to it as “the international law of lex mercatoria.”


Research Strategy

Posted January 15, 2003; MW.

Preliminary Analysis

When you begin a project, ask yourself what you already know about the topic.

  • Is there a convention that applies?
  • Are there important cases?
  • What is the factual background?

Get an overview of the legal issues by reading a secondary source, such as a law review article or textbook.

Write a list of questions you want to answer. These can include factual questions as well as questions about the law. You should revisit this list as you go along.

Write a list of search terms you think will be useful in indexes and databases.


   graphic credit: Florida Center for Instructional Technology

Sources of International Law

Article 38 of the Statute of the International Court of Justice lists the following as the sources it will apply:

  1. international conventions (treaties),
  2. international custom, as evidence of a general practice accepted as law,
  3. the general principles of law recognized by civilized nations,
  4. judicial decisions and teachings of the most highly qualified publicists of the various nations.

Your product (brief, memorial, paper, or article) will apply these sources � but your research path might not follow the list in order. In fact, it is often most efficientto begin your research with secondary sources.

Gather and Read Secondary Sources

Search for legal books and law journal articles on your topic.

Read (selectively) and take notes.

  • Is there a convention that applies? If so, get the text.
  • Do the sources discuss activities that could constitute �international custom� or �general principles of law�?
  • Do the sources cite case?
    • international tribunals
    • courts from various countries
  • Do the authors offer interpretations that you agree or disagree with? Should you address those positions in your paper?
  • Can you use any of the sources as �teachings of the most highly qualified publicists�? (A treatise by a famous professor would count; a law review note by a second-year student would not.)

Gather and Read Conventions, Cases, and Other Sources

Your notes from secondary sources should provide you with many leads. Use the citations you find. Then you can branch out — for instance, by searching for cases or statements by government officials.

Use Nonlegal Sources

  • News sources can provide leads to very recent legal developments (e.g., a pending case, a treaty under negotiation).
  • Nonlegal sources � news, scientific, technical, economic � help you develop the factual context for the legal issue.
  • News sources and historical works can provide evidence of custom.

Update Your Research

  • Has there been action on the treaty (adoption, reservations, abrogation)?
  • Is there a new treaty on the topic?
  • Are there new cases?


Library Departments and Branches

Updated May 16, 2007; AEH.

UW Gallagher Law Library

  • URL:
  • MARIAN, the Law Library’s Internet based online catalog.
    • Search for materials in the Law Library’s collection. Also provides access to electronic databases, legal periodical indexes (e.g., Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals), other library catalogs, free Internet legal resources, Law Library services (e.g., interlibrary loan request form), and information on changing the catalog display to view characters in other languages.
    • Law Library materials are not included in the main University of Washington Libraries catalog.
    • For catalog searching tips see “Library Catalogs” section of this guide.
  • Reference Office on floor L1, 543-6794, handles reference questions for United States law, international law, and the law of  foreign jurisdictions. The Reference staff will assist with basic legal reference questions regarding China, Japan, and Korea, but will refer patrons to the Library’s  East Asian Law Department staff for in-depth questions concerning those countries. Email reference service for UW law students.
  • East Asian Law Department handles Chinese, Japanese, and Korean law reference questions.
  • 543-7447; e-mail rrbritt@u.

  • Circulation Department on L1, 543-4086, provides a variety of services with respect to accessing materials.
    • If a book you need is checked out, you can request the book by talking to a Circulation staff member or via MARIAN, the online catalog.
    • If a book (or journal) you need is not available here in the Law Library or in the UW Libraries, or in the academic libraries in Washington and Oregon states (for more information, see the “Summit” section below), Circulation staff may be able to borrow it for you from other libraries through interlibrary loan. See the Interlibrary Loan webpage for more information about this service.

UW Libraries

  • URL:
  • UW Libraries online catalog includes materials available in the many library departments located throughout campus (e.g., Suzzallo Library, Engineering Library, Fisheries-Oceanography Library, Foster Business Library, and East Asia Library). It does not include the Law Library materials, which are available through MARIAN.
  • Information about the libraries around campus is available via the UW Libraries Research Databases website. Selected departments include:
    • Government Publications, Suzzallo Library ground floor; 543-1937. Government Publications is a depository for U.S. federal government publications and for Canadian, United Nations, and European Union documents. The collection includes selected documents from a variety of international organizations. Some microfiche documents are here (e.g. EC Official Journal). Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS) is a collection of translations of newspaper articles and radio and television broadcasts from foreign countries. The emphasis is on political, socioeconomic, scientific, technical, and environmental information. The set has been superceded by the online World News Connection (WNC), which is available through the UW Libraries Research Databases page.
      • The UW Libraries online catalog includes selected international titles, but many titles must be accessed through internal records/files with staff assistance.
    • Microform and Newspaper Collections, Suzzallo Library ground floor; 543-4164. MicNews maintains a large current international newspaper collection, with an emphasis on Slavic, South and Southeast Asian papers and a selection of European and American papers. Includes indexes and backruns for major newspapers.
    • Suzzallo Library Reference, Suzzallo Library first floor, 543-0242; email: Handles reference questions concerning: anthropology, cinema studies, classics, communications, economics, education, English language and literature, ethnic studies, geography, Germanics, history, linguistics, philosophy, political science, psychology, religion, Romance languages and literatures, sociology and women’s studies. Includes links to research databases in the humanities and social sciences.


Summit is an online library catalog that combines information from more than 30 academic libraries in Washington and Oregon into a single unified database. UW students, faculty, and staff can search the online catalog and borrow materials directly from these libraries for delivery to UW Law Library. The UW Libraries and the UW Law Library catalogs are included in Summit. Four other law school libraries are included in the Summit catalog. More About Summit


ShareLaw is an online law library catalog that combines information from six law school libraries—Boalt Hall (University of California-Berkeley), George Washington, Tarlton Law Library (University of Texas-Austin), the University of Miami, Yale, and the University of Washington. UW School of Law faculty, students, and staff  can search for materials held by participating law libraries and may directly request material that is not available at the Gallagher Law Library. More About ShareLaw


Electronic Sources

Updated July 19, 2007; AEH.

Connecting to Online Resources

Many electronic databases and indexes are available to you. Some databases are licensed by the University with a restriction that they are only for the UW community. You have two options for accessing these databases:

  1. use a UW-connected computer, such as the public computers in the Law Library
  2. use your own computer and sign in with your UW NetID at the Gallagher Law Library website or the UW Libraries website. Look for these links:
      or , click, then sign in.

See the Gallagher guide on Connecting to Online Library Resources for more information.

Law-Specific Databases

On the Gallagher Law Library homepage, use the pull-down option under the Find Legal Databases heading. Select the database you want to search and then click on Go. See the Legal Databases & Indexes page for a complete list and descriptions.

University Libraries Research Databases

The UW Libraries Research Databases page is an excellent entry point for a variety of indexes and databases available to University of Washington users. Browse by database name or use the Resources by Subject option, where you’ll find topics such as African studies, East Asia, fisheries, health sciences, human rights, international studies, Japanese studies, political science and public affairs, religion, Southeast Asian studies, and women’s studies.

LexisNexis & Westlaw

UW law students have LexisNexis IDs and Westlaw passwords for educational purposes. For help, ask a reference librarian or a LexisNexis or Westlaw student representative or call Customer Service (LexisNexis 1-800-543-6862; Westlaw 1-800-REF-ATTY, 1-800-733-2889). Each vendor has a law school portal:


For educational purposes, UW students from departments and schools other than the School of Law have access to LexisNexis Academic through the UW Libraries Research Databases page. This version of LexisNexis does not offer the same coverage as the version law students use. Material that is listed in this guide as available on LexisNexis is available on the law school version but may not be available on the general academic version.


A wide variety of material is available on the Internet. Government agencies, IGOs, universities, businesses, and individuals post documents and other information on their websites. The Internet has become particularly valuable for international law researchers because some documents are now available on the Web that are otherwise very difficult to obtain.

Gallagher’s Internet Legal Resources page links to selected websites for comparative, foreign, and international law research. Other sources include:

  • International Inter-Governmental & Non-Governmental Organizations (from the UW Libraries Government Publications Library) links to free international and foreign law websites.
  • The Legal List: Research on the Internet includes a chapter on international and foreign law web resources. KF242.A1 H496 at Reference Office
  • Ken Kozlowski, The Internet Guide for the Legal Researcher: The Complete Resource Guide to Finding Legal Information on the Internet, includes a chapter on international web resources. KF242.A1 M3 at Reference Office

Email Discussion Lists

Also called “listservs,” email discussion lists enable people to communicate and share information quickly and easily.

For information on the use of listservs and a selected list of international law lists, see the ASIL Guide to Electronic Resources for International Law, Lists, Newsgroups & Networks.


Research Guides and Bibliographies–International Law

Updated Nov. 7, 2007; AEH.

Why Use a Research Guide?

Research guides can help you find out what materials are available. They often give you an overview of the subject and then list good sources. They can save you hours!

Online Guides

The American Society of International Law’s ASIL Guide to Electronic Resources for International Law is a guide to free web resources and selected databases available to LexisNexis and Westlaw subscribers. Sections cover:

  • the United Nations
  • treaties
  • human rights
  • international commercial arbitration
  • international criminal law
  • international economic law
  • international environmental law
  • international organizations
  • private international law

A related resource is the Electronic Information System for International Law (EISIL), which provides research guides and links to primary documents and recommended websites.

Foreign and International Law Sources on the Internet: Annotated (from the Cornell University Law Library) is a selective guide to websites providing links to texts of laws and court decisions, research guides and commentary on laws, international documents, directories, trade information, and statistics. Includes annotations describing sources.

Guide to Foreign and International Legal Databases (from the New York University Law Library) is a collection of links to databases organized by topic, jurisdiction, or type. Includes a checklist for evaluating databases.

Law librarians at Duke University and the University of California-Berkeley have prepared an International Legal Research Tutorial that covers customary international law, international organizations, treaties and agreements, and related topics.

Intute: Social Sciences > Law contains an annotated collection of reliable web resources concerning international law, organized by subject or type of material.

University of Washington Gallagher Law Library, Foreign, Comparative & International Law lists legal research guides covering topics such as treaties, human rights, United Nations materials, and select country guides (Australia, China, Japan, Korea, and Taiwan). Includes references to free and subscription-based resources.

LLRX, Comparative / Foreign Law provides a collection of links to topical research guides (e.g., International Criminal Law, International Trade Law, International Commercial Arbitration), websites, books, and news events related to international law.

The World Legal Information Institute provides a list of links to online international legal research guides.


Robert C. Berring & Marci Hoffman, Legal Research for the 21st Century: Advanced Research, 9 videotapes. KF240.B374 2000 at Reference Area
Tape 6 (46 minutes) covers international law and tape 7 (43 minutes) covers foreign law. An earlier version of this material is found in Bob Berring�s Commando Legal Research. KF240.B374 1989 at Classified Stacks
Tape 7: International Law (65 minutes) provides a brief introduction to foreign law research in English; most of the tape concerns international law.

International Law Video Course. Produced by Seton Hall University School of Law in cooperation with the American Society of International Law. 10-part series. KZ1237.I58 1995 at Reference Area
Not a research guide, but a good overview of the nature and sources of international law, law of treaties, and international organizations.

Print Guides

Germain�s Transnational Law Research: A Guide for Attorneys. K85.G47 1991 at Reference Office & Classified Stacks
Updated in 2002. Very useful guide. Annotations throughout describe and evaluate sources.

  • Chapter 1, “Foreign and International Law: Procedural and Practical Issues,” provides an excellent overview.
  • Chapter II, “Foreign and International Law: Substantive Issues,” discusses treaty research, unification of international law, EU law, and other topics.
  • Chapter III is “Foreign and International Law Research Sources.”
  • Chapter IV, “Subjects,” presents essays on how to research 39 subjects — including Law of the Sea.
  • Chapter V, “Countries,” includes sections on 20 countries.

George Washington Journal of International Law and Economics, Guide to International Legal Research. KZ1234.G85 2007 at Reference Area & Reference Office
Great place to start. Covers treaty research and international organizations.

International Lawyer’s Deskbook, 2d ed. K85.I574 2002 at Reference Office
This publication of the ABA’s International Law and Practice Section covers 27 topics in international law (e.g., financing, customs, commercial arbitration, creditor’s rights and bankruptcy). Each chapter provides an overview of the topic and a list of primary and secondary sources for research.

Peter I. Hajnal, ed., International Information: Documents, Publications, and Electronic Information of International Governmental Organizations, 2d ed. JZ4850.I58 at Reference Office
Comprehensive research text.

Lassa Oppenheim, Oppenheim’s International Law, 9th ed. KZ3264.A3 I58 1992 at Reference Area
Designed for practitioners, chapters are dedicated to particular issues of international law, with extensive references to primary authority.

Digest of United States Practice in International Law.
Published by the International Law Institute under agreement with the US State Department’s Office of the Legal Adviser. An annual summary of major developments in the field, organized topically. Working on retrospective coverage of 1991-99. Series titles, years of coverage, call numbers, and locations include:

  • Digest of United States Practice in International Law (1989-90 & 2000-date). KZ237.7.D544 at Classified Stacks
  • Cumulative Digest of United States Practice in International Law (1981-88). KZ21.D54 at Classified Stacks
  • Digest of United States Practice in International Law (1973-80) KZ237.7.D544 at Classified Stacks
  • Whiteman, Digest of International Law (1963-73). KZ237.7.W45 1963 at Classified Stacks
  • Hackworth, Digest of International Law (1906-44) KZ237.7.H33 1940 at Classified Stacks
  • Moore, A Digest of International Law. KZ237.7.M66 1906 at Classified Stacks

Public International Law: A Current Bibliography of Books and Articles, 1975-date. K3150.P8 at Reference Area
Issued by the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law. Cites to articles and books on all aspects of international law, organized by subject (e.g., law of sea-fisheries, environmental protection-waste, finances-taxes). top

Research Guides and Bibliographies–Foreign Law

Updated July 19, 2007; AEH.

Thomas H. Reynolds & Arturo A. Flores, Foreign Law Guide: Current Sources of Codes and Basic Legislation in Jurisdictions of the World. UW Restricted.
Excellent resource; very thorough.

Germain’s Transnational Law Research: A Guide for Attorneys. K85.G47 1991 at Reference Office & Classified Stacks
See Chapter V, “Countries.”

Introduction to Foreign Legal Systems (R.A. Danner & M.H. Bernal, eds.). K559.I57 1994 at Reference Office

Accidental Tourist on the New Frontier: An Introductory Guide to Global Legal Research (Jeanne Rehberg & Radu D. Popa, eds.). K85.A27 1998 at Reference Area & Reference Office

LLRX Comparative / Foreign Law

Martindale-Hubbell International Law Digest. KF190.M34, current at Reference Area & Reference Office
Summaries of the laws of most countries. Good starting place. Also on LexisNexis.

Szladits’ Bibliography on Foreign and Comparative Law, 1984- . K520.S9 in Reference Area
Annotated bibliography of books and articles, in English, on topics of foreign and comparative law, organized by subject.

World Legal Information Institute’s collection of online international legal research guides,

University of Melbourne, Asian Law Centre, AsianLaw Bibliography, is a searchable bibliographic database of English language publications on Asian laws. Provides bibliographic references to publications such as books, book chapters, journal articles and theses.

For additional resources see the Gallagher guide on Research in Foreign & Comparative Law.



Updated December 4, 2002; MW.

Language can present many challenges in foreign and international law research. See:

  • Amber Lee Smith, “Foreign Law in Translation: Problems and Sources,” in Richard A. Danner & Marie-Louise H. Bernal, eds., Introduction to Foreign Legal Systems, at 267-71, K559.I57 1994 at Reference Office.
  • M. Kathleen Price, “The Unambiguous Rightness of Meaning: The Search for Precision in Foreign, Comparative, and International Law Research,” in Jeanne Rehberg & Radu D. Popa, Accidental Tourist on the New Frontier: An Introductory Guide to Global Legal Research, K85.A27 1998 at Reference Office.
  • Susan Sarcevic, New Approach to Legal Translation, K213.S27 1997 at Classified Stacks.

You may need to consider compromises. For example, a five-year-old, unofficial English translation might be “good enough” for some purposes, when the current, official text is in a language you cannot read and do not have the resources to have translated.

Since legal terms exist within the rich context of their legal systems, even a simple translation can be misleading. For example, an American lawyer may see the word “trial” and make assumptions about judge, jury, attorneys, witnesses, cross-examination, and so on, that would not fit at all with what “trial” means in a civil law context. (Meanings can change even without translating across languages and major legal systems. Consider the word “constitution” in the common law, English-speaking jurisdictions of the United Kingdom and the United States!)


To find bilingual dictionaries, search MARIAN, the Law Library’s catalog for the language and “dictionaries.�

To find dictionaries that include more than two languages, use “polyglot” in your search.

  • For example, keywords: dictionaries and polyglot retrieves the records for 32 books, including West�s Law and Commercial Dictionary in Five Languages: Definitions of the Legal and Commercial Terms and Phrases of American, English, and Civil Law Jurisdictions,  a two-volume set that translates terms between English and German, Spanish, French, and Italian. K54.W47 1985 at Reference Area.

EURODICAUTOM,, is the multilingual terminological database of the European Commission�s Translation Service. You can enter a term in one of the twelve languages covered (Danish (DA), Dutch (NL), English (EN), Finnish (FI), French (FR), German (DE), Greek (EL), Italian (IT), Latin (LA), Portuguese (PT), Spanish (ES), Swedish (SV)) and find equivalent or related terms in any of the other languages.

A Web of On-Line Dictionaries,, links to over 1,000 dictionaries in over 200 languages. (The site is maintained by a professor of Russian and Linguistics at Bucknell.)


Web-based translation tools may provide some assistance.

  • For example, Alta Vista�s translation service,, lets you type in (or cut and paste) a passage in any of several languages (French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish) and translate it to English. You can also enter something in English and translate it to any of those languages. Using this, you can even ask to have an entire website translated by entering the URL (website address).
    • This little free program is not a substitute for knowing a language or finding a competent translator. The translations are not accurate or smooth. But, under certain circumstances, the program could be a useful tool.
    • For example, when I cut and pasted a section of a Mexican statute from LexisNexis into the translator, I found the statute was about “the Free Trade Agreement of America of the North.” A good translator would have known to say “North American Free Trade Agreement,” but at least with the computer translation a researcher could tell whether the statute was the one needed so that she could try to find someone to help with the Spanish text.
  • Findlaw’s directory of translators, arranged by state, Under the heading “Practice Support & Consultants” click on “Translators.”
  • In MARIAN you can limit keywords searches to materials in English, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Russian, or German. For information on displaying foreign characters, see



Updated July 19, 2007; CRN.

Why Use Directories?

Directories can help you identify agencies and organizations that are active in an area. They provide you with contact information (if you want to call or write an expert), as well as information about the organization’s work.

International and Non-Governmental Organizations

  • Encyclopedia of Associations. HS17.G334, current edition at Reference Office
  • Encyclopedia of Associations–International Organizations. Well-indexed, with descriptions of associations and organizations. AS8.E53, current at Reference Office. Westlaw: EOA.
  • Yearbook of International Organizations. Describes IGOs and NGOs. JZ4836.Y43, current (vols. 1 & 3) at Reference Office. Suzzallo Government Publications Reference has the complete set.
  • International Information Directory. AS8.I58, current at Reference Office
  • International Governmental Organizations (from the Northwestern University Library) links to websites.
  • International Organizations and Related Information (from the University of Michigan Library Documents Center) links to websites.
  • Non-governmental Organizations Research Guide (from the Duke University Perkins Library) links to websites of NGOs that deal with environmentally sustainable development, human rights, and/or women in development.

United States

Foreign Countries

  • Washington Information Directory. Lists foreign embassies in the US and US ambassadors in each country.  E154.5.W38, current at Reference Office
  • Worldwide Government Directory, with International Organizations. JF37.L345 at Classified Stacks
  • Statesman’s Yearbook. JA51.S7, current at Reference Office
  • Foreign Consular Offices in the United States (from the US State Department) lists consulates by country, then by state where the consulates are located. Individual officials are listed.
  • The Diplomatic List (from the US State Department) lists embassy staff.
  • World Leaders / Chiefs of State and Cabinet Members of Foreign Governments (from the US Central Intelligence Agency) provides names of officials, but not directory information.
  • The World Factbook provides maps, flags, and summaries of each country’s political, economic, agricultural, demographic, and cultural climate. G122.U56a, current at Reference Office
  • Foreign Governments (from the University of Michigan Library Documents Center) links to indexing sites and portals.
  • Permanent Missions to the United Nations–New York (from the United Nations) links to websites.


Library Catalogs

Updated Dec. 18, 2007; MW.

Why Use Catalogs?

Library catalogs provide information about the books, documents, videos, and journals that the library owns. Now they often link to online resources, as well. Library materials can provide you with an overview of a topic and references to other material. Scholarly works can be evidence of “teachings of the most highly qualified publicists of the various nations” – one of the sources of international law.

UW Law Library Catalog � MARIAN

The Law Library’s catalog (called MARIAN) is found on the Library’s homepage. This catalog identifies material owned or access through the Law Library.


You can search MARIAN by author, title, subject, or keywords. For help searching, use the online help screens or ask a reference librarian.

Subject headings for international law topics include the general (e.g., Human Rights) and the specific (e.g., Refugees, Refugees Arab, Refugees Political). Note that there are often closely related headings. Do not stop with your first search! Try different combinations in keywords or subject heading searches.

Geographic subdivisions of subject headings indicate the jurisdiction or geographic area covered. Examples: Argentina, China, European Economic Community Countries, United States, Washington State. For some topics, you might want to check for regions – e.g., Latin America, Europe, Europe Eastern, Europe Central.

Language may be searched in two ways:

  • In a keywords search, use the pull-down menu to select English, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Russian, or German.
  • After you run any type of search, click LIMIT, then select a language from the pull-down menu.

Information about displaying foreign characters is available online.

Locating Materials

To find a book or other item in the Law Library, you need to know its call number and location � both listed in the catalog record.

Call numbers arrange books by jurisdiction and subject area. For example:

  • K–jurisprudence and comparative law
  • KD–British law
  • KF–United States law
  • KNX-KNY–Japanese law
  • KZ–international law

Locations within the Library include:

  • Reference Area, Floor L1
  • Classified Stacks, Floors L1 and L2
  • Compact Stacks, Floor L2

For more on call numbers and the layout of the Law Library, see Library Holdings, Arrangement of the Collection and Library Maps. To find the general call number for materials dealing with a specific country, see the Table of Call Numbers for Foreign Jurisdictions.

Catalog records include links to some electronic materials. Many materials are on free government-sponsored websites. The Law Library subscribes to other sources, such as Hein Online, which provide online content. These commercial services are usually UW Restricted.

Other Library Catalogs

The UW Libraries catalog does not include the Law Library, but it include the University’s East Asia Library and all other branch libraries, including those located in Bothell and Tacoma.

Many of the government documents available at Suzzallo/Government Publications (including United Nations and some older federal documents) are not listed in the UW Libraries catalog.

University of Washington School of Law faculty, students, and staff have access to other catalogs, such as ShareLaw and Summit. Read about these Other Library Catalogs for more information. If you find an item in the Summit or ShareLaw catalog that is not available at the Law Library, you may directly request it without going through the interlibrary loan process. If you cannot find an item that you want in any of these catalogs, you may request it through interlibrary loan.



Updated October 2, 2007; MW.

Why Use Periodicals?

There are many reasons to use periodicals when you work on an international or foreign law project:

  • Law journal articles can give you an overview of a topic, with footnotes leading to other material.
  • Law journal articles analyze issues (and you might agree or disagree with the analysis in your own work).
  • Articles from other disciplines (economics, history, oceanography, business) can provide you with the factual context for analyzing your legal topic.
  • News stories also provide factual context.
  • News stories might also summarize a law or give you useful information about a legal development.  (When did the EU issue a directive? Is this nation’s parliament debating a money-laundering bill?)
  • Any of these sources might be used to show “international custom, as evidence of a general practice accepted as law”–one of the sources of international law.
  • Scholarly articles can be evidence of “teachings of the most highly qualified publicists of the various nations”–one of the sources of international law.


General Comments

For your research projects, you may need periodical articles from different types of publications–for example, U.S. law journals and international scientific journals. Consequently, you will use different periodical indexes. Which indexes from other disciplines are most useful to you will, of course, depend on your research project. Someone working on the legal regime concerning deep seabed mining might need a technical report from an engineering database, while someone working on a paper about human rights claims of an indigenous people might need publications in anthropology or geography.

Be aware that the indexes may vary in their search language. For example, if you are using LexisNexis or Westlaw and you want to truncate the word “immigrate” (so you will retrieve records with “immigrant” and “immigration” as well as “immigrate”), you would enter immigra!. To do the same thing in LegalTrac you would enter immigra*. And to do the same thing in Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals, you would enter immigra?. For assistance, use each index�s online help screens or ask a reference librarian.

The list below indicates whether each index is available through the UW Law Library Legal Databases & Indexes page, the UW Libraries Research Databaseslist, on LexisNexis or Westlaw, on the Internet, or in print. (For more about access to LexisNexis and Westlaw, see the section on Electronic Sources.)

Legal Periodical Indexes

LegalTrac (Legal Resource Index): Indexes US, UK, Canadian & Australian legal periodicals, 1980-date. Some full-text articles.

Index to Legal Periodicals and Books: Indexes US, UK, Canadian & Australian legal periodicals, 1926-date.

  • K33.I5 at Reference Area
  • LexisNexis: ILP, 1978-date

Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals: Indexes non-Anglo-American legal periodicals, plus some comparative & international articles from US & Commonwealth journals, 1960-date in print; 1985-date online. Also covers essays in collection. Indexing is in English; articles are in many languages (including English).

Current Index to Legal Periodicals: A weekly current awareness service–mostly US law reviews (published by the Gallagher Law Library).

Index to Canadian Legal Literature: Indexes Canadian legal essays, articles, government publications & CLE materials.

  • Westlaw: ICLL, 1985-date
  • KE173.C38 at Classified Stacks (1981-93 only)

European Integration Current Contents allows you to search or browse the tables of contents of 108 journals relevant to European law, human rights, economics, history, and political science. Spring 1999-date.

Public International Law: Indexes articles in journals & other collected works, 1975-date. Since 1990, also lists newly published books. Published by Max Planck Institute. Several languages, including English. K3150 .P8 at Reference Area

Legal Journals Index: Indexes journals from the UK & other EU countries with articles pertaining to the laws of the EU & its member states. 1986-date.

  • Westlaw: LJI
  • K33.L43 at Classified Stacks (vols. 1-5, 1986-90 only)

Selected Indexes from Related Disciplines

Anthropological Literature: Indexes articles in anthropology and related disciplines, 1984-date. UW Libraries Research Databases

Dissertation Abstracts: Indexes and abstracts dissertations from North America & Europe. The web version includes options for ordering copies of the dissertations (for a fee) (recent UW dissertations are available online free to UW users). You can also use the information you find to request a dissertation through Interlibrary Loan.

EconLit: Indexes economics articles. Useful for international trade, international intellectual property &  international development.

GeoBase: An index to the international literature of geography, ecology, earth science & marine science. Touches on many international law topics. For example, includes hundreds of articles with the subject heading “Human Rights.” UW Libraries Research Databases

NTIS (National Technical Information Service): Indexes U.S. government-sponsored scientific & technical research & worldwide scientific, technical & engineering information. UW Libraries Research Databases

PAIS International: Indexes periodical articles, books, and government reports from around the world in six languages, including English.

For other indexes, see the UW Libraries Research Databases list.

Full-Text Sources

Both LexisNexis and Westlaw have the full text of many legal periodicals available online. Remember that both only include selected periodicals, generally starting in the mid-1980’s, and that until recently Westlaw only included selected articles from most periodicals it covers. Both services also offer many U.S. and international news sources.

HeinOnline reproduces the full-text of hundreds of law reviews in Portable Document Format (pdf). Coverage extends to the first volume for each title up until last year; current year issues are not always available. The search system is less sophisticated than that found on LexisNexis or Westlaw.

The World News Connection (WNC) is a collection of translations of newspaper articles and radio and television broadcasts from foreign countries. The emphasis is on political, socioeconomic, scientific, technical, and environmental information. For early news stories, consult the Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS) microfiche located at the Suzzallo Microform and Newspaper CollectionsUW Libraries Research Databases


Treaties and Other International Agreements

Updated May 26, 2009; CRN.

Overview and Questions to Consider

Agreements between countries are called agreements, conventions, protocols, and treaties. Treaties may be bilateral (between two countries) or multilateral (between more than two countries). Many sources describe the nature of treaties and the treaty-making process, including:

United Nations, Office of Legal Affairs, Treaty Section, Treaty Handbook. KZ1302.T73 2001 at Classified Stacks
Describes the process of treaty-making, including depositing a multilateral treaty with the Secretary-General, key events in the treaty process, registering and filing a treaty. Includes a glossary.

Here are some questions to consider before you begin treaty research.

  • Is the U.S. a party to the treaty? If the answer is yes, begin research with the sources like Treaties in Force. If the answer is no, use other sources like the United Nations Treaty Collection or the Multilateral Treaty Calendar.
  • Do you know if the treaty is bilateral or multilateral?
  • Do you know the name of the treaty?
  • Do you know the approximate date the treaty was open for ratification or adoption? Consult the Multilateral Treaty Calendar.
  • Are you looking for a citation to a published source or for the latest status information?

Remember that law reviews are an excellent source of information. Conduct a full-text search in LexisNexis or Westlaw using the information and keywords associated with the treaty. Many times that search will quickly reveal citations to the official publications that contain the text of the treaty.

Research Guides

ASIL Guide to Electronic Resources for International Law: Treaties provides an overview of significant online treaty resources and research strategies. Includes a list of other countries and international organizations online treaty materials.

Duke University School of Law Library, Treaties

LLRX, Researching U.S. Treaties and Agreements and Researching Non-U.S. Treaties and Agreements

New York University, Hauser Global Law School Program, GlobaLex, An Introduction to Sources for Treaty Research

New York University School of Law Library, International Treaties is a collection of links to treaty sources on the Internet.

Treaty Research Basics, 89 L. Libr. J. 407 (1997). Hein Online


Treaties in Force, State Department list of treaties and other international acts to which the U.S. is a party. Annual.

Flare Index to Treaties
A searchable database of treaty information. Covers more than 1,500 multilateral treaties, with three or more parties, since 1856.

United States Treaty Index: 1776-2000 Consolidation. KZ235.C87 1991 at Reference Area  
Multi-volume set includes subject, country, chronological, and geographical indexes.
Updated twice a year by the Current Treaty Index. KZ235.C872 at Reference Area

Hein’s United States Treaties and Other International Agreements Current Service. Index, KZ235.32.U65 at Reference Area; microfiche, KZ235.32.U65 at Reference Area Microfiche
Updates the United States Treaty Index. Includes microfiche of treaties and agreements not yet published in TIAS.

Multilateral Treaties Deposited with the Secretary General. Annual. KZ171.M86, current at Reference Area & Reference Office
United Nations list of signatures, ratifications, accessions, reservations, and objections.

United Nations Treaty Series Cumulative Index covers 1987 through 2004, with more volumes to come.

Multilateral Treaty Calendar: 1648-1995. KZ118.W55 1998 at Reference Area
Organized chronologically.

World Treaty Index, 2d ed. 5 vols. KZ173.R63 1983 at Reference Area
Useful, although dated.

Multilateral Treaties: Index and Current Status. KZ118.B69 1984 at Reference Area 
Useful because it includes important treaties regardless of participants. Supplemented periodically.



Hein Online (UW Restricted)

Contains ratified and unratified (from Jan. 1981) treaties to which the U.S. is a party from 1776.

United Nations Treaty Collection

  • United Nations Treaty Series & index
  • League of Nations Treaty Series
  • Status of Multilateral Treaties Deposited with the Secretary-General
  • related material

Westlaw (Restricted to users with Westlaw passwords)

  • CMB-TREATIES. Contains treaties, conventions, and agreements from multiple sources.
  • USTREATIES. Covers treaties to which the U.S. is a party, from 1778.
  • ILM. Contains treaties published in International Legal Materials from 1980. Also the cumulative index: ILM-INDX.

American Memory, U.S. Statutes at Large, vols. 1-18, 1789-1875. 
Contains treaties with Indian tribes and foreign governments.


United Nations Treaty Series, 1946-date. KZ172.T74 at Compact Stacks
League of Nations, Treaty Series, 1920-46, 205 vols. KZ170.5.T74 at Compact Stacks
Contains the text of more than 40,000 bilateral and multilateral treaties.

United States Treaties and Other International Agreements, 1950-date. KZ235.3.U55 at Compact Stacks
Updated by Treaties and Other International Acts Series (TIAS) pamphlets. KZ235.32.U55 at Compact Stacks.


Treaties and Other International Agreements of the United States of America 1776-1949, 13 vols. KZ236 1968 at Compact Stacks, Hein Online & LLMC Digital.
Commonly called “Bevans.”

Treaties and Other International Acts of the United States of America. 8 vols. KZ236 1931 at Compact Stacks, Hein Online & LLMC Digital.
Commonly called “Miller.” Covers 1776-1863.

United States Statutes at Large, 1789-date. KF50.U5 at Reference Area & Hein Online: U.S. Statutes at Large Library.
Official source for treaties before 1950. Contains treaties with Indian tribes and foreign governments.

International Legal Materials (1962-date). KZ64.I58, last 2 years at Reference Area, older at Classified Stacks; LexisNexis: INTLAW;ILM & Westlaw: ILM (vol. 19, 1980- ). 
Contains selected treaties and other international documents, often years before official sources. Tables of contents available for issues published from vol. 38, 1999.


Collections–Selected Specialized Sources

Avalon Project at Yale Law School contains selected treaties dealing with diplomacy, including peace treaties and assorted bilateral treaties.

Lex Mercatoria, International Trade Instruments, Treaties, Conventions, Model Laws, Rules, a Reverse Chronological List.

Environmental Treaties and Resource Indicators

Food and Agricultural Organization, Treaties Deposited with the FAO provides text and status information.

University of Minnesota, Human Rights Library, Human Rights Treaties and Other Instruments is arranged by subject and includes a list, organized by country, of ratification of human rights treaties.

Tufts University, Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy, Multilaterals Project contains multilateral treaties on atmosphere and space, cultural protection, diplomatic relations, flora and fauna, human rights, marine and coastal, rules of war and arms control, trade and commercial relations, and other general and environmental issues.

U.S. Treasury Dep’t, Tax Treaty Documents provides the text of proposed treaties, from 1996.  

U.S. State Dep’t, Bureau of Nonproliferation, Treaties and Agreements

LexisNexis: Legal > Area of Law by Topic > International Law > Treaties & International Agreements

  • EURCOM;ECLAW. Contains European Communities and European Union treaties from 1953.
  • INTLAW;NAFTA. Contains the North American Free Trade Agreement and supplemental agreements from Sept. 1993.
  • FEDTAX;TAWTT. Tax Analysts Worldwide Tax Treaties Combined Files contains more than 4,400 worldwide tax treaties from 1828 to present.
  • FEDTAX;WWFRCE. Tax Analysts Worldwide Tax Treaties In Force from Dec. 1910.

Westlaw databases

  • EU-TREATIES. Contains European Union treaties between member states from 1951.
  • FTX-TREATIES. Contains tax treaties and agreements between the United States and other countries from 1955.

For a more extensive list of links by country and subject, see the World Legal Information Institute, Treaties & International Agreements.

Status & Signatories

Treaties in Force is the State Dep’t list of U.S. treaties and other international acts.

U.S. State Dep’t, Office of the Legal Adviser, Treaty Actions covers bilateral and multilateral treaties to which the U.S. is a party. Covers from 1999.

U.S. Congress, Senate, Committee on Foreign Relations, Pending Treaties provides information on the status of treaties submitted to the Senate for advice and consent (the oldest dating back to 1949).

Thomas, Treaties provides status information on treaties submitted to the U.S. Senate for advice and consent. Covers from 90th Congress, 1967 (earlier dates incomplete).

Multilateral Treaties Deposited with the Secretary General, KZ171.M86 current at Reference Area & Reference Office
U.N. list of signatures, ratifications, accessions, reservations, and objections.

United Nations Diplomatic Conferences
Documents and proceedings relating to twelve conferences during which treaties were negotiated. Covers from 1958 (Law of the Sea) to 1998 (Conference on the Establishment of an International Criminal Court.

Acronyms & Abbreviations

Many treaty collections are known by their acronyms. The following list identifies the most commonly encountered acronyms and abbreviations.

Bevans = C. Bevans, Treaties and Other International Agreements of the United States of America 1776-1949.

ILM = International Legal Materials

LNTS = League of Nations Treaty Series

TIAS = Treaties and Other International Acts Series

UNTS = United Nations Treaty Series

UST = United States Treaties and Other International Agreements

Frequently-Cited Treaties and Other International Instruments, from the University of Minnesota Law Library, may be used as a quick source for finding some treaty citations.


Customs, Principles, Teachings

Updated Dec. 18, 2007; JF.

Customary international law is the generalization of the practice of States” Fisheries Case, ICJ Reports (1951) 191. For example, United Nations General Assembly resolutions can often form the basis for an argument based on custom. For additional discussion on how to find UN resolutions, see the United Nations Research guide.

For additional information about customary law, see Ralph F. Gaebler, “Conducting Research in Customary International Law,” in Contemporary Practice of Public International Law. KZ1234 C66 1997 at Classified Stacks

Principles of Law Recognized by Civilized Nations” means principles that virtually all industrialized nations adhere to. They can be substantive or procedural principles, such as equitable claims that appear in both the common and civil law systems. Principles are found by completing a comparative law study of how a particular issue is dealt with in a wide range of jurisdictions.

For additional information, see the Gallagher guide on Foreign Law Research.

Teachings of the Most Highly Qualified” means scholarly writings by leading minds regarding how to treat a particular topic or question.


Teachings can be found in secondary sources (treatises, yearbooks, journals). Use the periodical indexes and library catalog.

Consult annotated bibliographies and research guides, such as Germain’s Transnational Law Research. K85.G47 1991 at Reference Office & Classified Stacks

Several specific sources of teachings are:

  • Yearbook of the International Law Commission. KZ1287.U55Y43 at Classified Stacks
  • International Law Commission website
  • Encyclopedia of Public International Law. KZ1160.E53 1992 at Classified Stacks
U.S. Perspective on customs, principles, and teachings Restatement of the Law, Third, the Foreign Relations Law of the United States. KF395.F67 1987 at Reference Area. Available on LexisNexis & Westlaw: REST-FOREL

The U.S. State Department’s Office of the Legal Adviser publishes digests to provide the views and practices of the United States in public and private international law.

  • Digest of United States Practice in International Law, 1973-date. KZ237.7.D544 at Classified Stacks. Online beginning with 1989.
  • Prior to 1973, Digest of International Law. KZ237.7.W45 at Classified Stacks
  • The Digest is updated quarterly in the American Journal of International Law (at Compact Stacks), under the section titled “Contemporary Practice of the United States Relating to International Law.” Available on Hein Online (UW Restricted), LexisNexis& Westlaw: AMJIL
  • Cumulative Digest of United States Practice in International Law, 1981-88. KZ237.7.D544 at Classified Stacks
  • West’s Federal Practice Digest 4th. KF127.W484 at Reference Area
  • West’s Federal Practice Digest 3d, 1975-beginning of 4th. KF127.W483 at Reference Area
  • Foreign Relations of the United States is the official record of the foreign policy of the United States and includes numerous declassified documents from various federal agencies. KZ233.F67 at Classified Stacks


International Cases

Updated Dec. 18, 2007; JF.


Along with treaties, international cases are some of the most important documents of international law. The primary source of international cases is the International Court of Justice, a part of the United Nations. Its predecessor, the Permanent Court of International Justice, rendered decisions from 1922-45. The current court started in 1945 and is based in The Hague.

International Court of Justice

Decisions, Awards & Related Documents

    • International Court of Justice. Includes full text of cases and pleadings since 1946 and the Court’s current docket.
    • Pleadings, Oral Arguments, Documents. KZ218.I58 at Classified Stacks
    • Reports of Judgments, Advisory Opinions, and Orders, 1947-date. KZ214.I5 at Classified Stacks
      Westlaw: INT-ICJ
      LexisNexis (only those cases appearing in International Legal Materials).
  • Reports of International Arbitral Awards, 1948-date. KZ200.R47 at Classified Stacks
  • Yearbook. KZ6273.I58 at Classified Stacks
  • World Court Digest, 1992-date. KZ1213.W67 1992 at Classified Stacks & online
  • Digest of the Decisions of the International Court of Justice, 1959-1975 = Repertoire des decisions de la Cour internationale de justice, 1959-1975 = Handbuch der Entscheidungen des Internationalen Gerichtshofs 1959-1975. KZ64.F66 Ser.A-1 v.6 at Classified Stacks
  • Digest of the Decisions of the International Court of Justice, 1976-1985 = Repertoire des decisions de la Cour internationale de justice, 1976-1985.KZ64.F66  Ser. A-1, v.7 at Classified Stacks
  • International Law Reports. KZ199.I58 at Classified Stacks
    A commercial publication that covers decisions of a variety of courts including the International Court of Justice. See especially Consolidated Indexes.

General Information

  • The International Court of Justice: Questions and Answers about the Principal Judicial Organ of the United Nations. KZ6275.I555 2000 at Classified Stacks
  • The World Court: What It Is and How It Works. KZ6275.R66 1995 at Classified Stacks
  • Germain�s International Court of Justice Research Guide

Other Courts

For information about the European Court of Justice, see the Gallagher guide on European Union Research.

For information about the European Court of Human Rights, see the Council of Europe section of the Gallagher guide on Intergovernmental Organizations (IGO).

For information about international trade dispute settlements, see Marci Hoffman, Revised Guide to International Trade Law Sources on the Internet (includes links to sites with NAFTA, GATT, and WTO dispute settlements).

For selected reprinted cases from other international courts and tribunals, see the periodical Global Community: Yearbook of International Law and JurisprudenceKZ21.G58 at Classified Stacks

For information about foreign domestic constitutional court decisions, see:

  • Leading Cases, 2002-date. KJC4444.52.B85 L433 at Classified Stacks
  • Bulletin on Constitutional Case-Law. Basic texts, 1995-date. KJC4444.52.B852 at Classified Stacks
  • Bulletin on Constitutional Case-Law, 1993-date. KJC4444.52.B85 at Classified Stacks

For information about specific national courts, arbitral tribunals, or other regional courts, see:


United Nations

Updated Dec. 18, 2007; PRJ.


The United Nations (UN) was created in 1945 by the signing of the Charter of the United Nations. Currently, there are 191 member nations. The UN has six main organs: the General Assembly, Security Council, Economic and Social Council, Trusteeship Council, Secretariat, and International Court of Justice. These main bodies may have subsidiary bodies: committees, commissions, or working groups.

The UN system includes independent organizations, called “specialized agencies.” These include the International Maritime Organization and the World Intellectual Property Organization. For more information on researching specialized agencies, see the Gallagher guide on Intergovernmental Organizations (IGOs).


Research strategies include:

  • gathering background information
  • checking the Law Library and UW Libraries catalogs
  • talking with Gallagher Law Library and UW Government Publications reference staff and
  • searching official and unofficial web resources.

The UN is a large and complicated organization, so researchers may find a bit of background helpful. A visual image of the complex the UN system may be helpful. See also:

Basic Facts about the United Nations. JZ4970.B37, current at Reference Office
A handbook that summarizes UN organizational structure and activities.

The UN in Brief explains UN structures and functions.

Edmund Jan Osmańczyk, The Encyclopedia of the United Nations and International Agreements, 3d ed. KZ4968.O86 2003 at Reference Area
This four-volume compendium focuses on how the UN and its institutions work.

Yearbook of the United Nations, 1946/47-date. JZ4947.U55 at Classified Stack
Detailed account of annual activities. Publication is slow.

Research Guides

Marci Hoffman & Mary Rumsey, Researching the United Nations. Developed for the University of Minnesota Law Library collection.

Marci Hoffman & Paul Zarins, ASIL Guide to Electronic Resources for International Law: United Nations. An annotated list of official and other UN websites, CD-ROM products, and commercial online services.

United Nations Scholar’s Workstation at Yale University links to a variety of research tools. Lists websites by research topic, UN organizational structure, and geographic area.

Linda Tashbrook, Researching the United Nations: Finding the Organization’s Internal Resource Trails describes approaches for finding people, issues, entities, and treaties.


The United Nations produces an overwhelming number of documents each year. There are several types of UN documents, most notably sales publications, official records, and mimeograph/masthead documents. The Law Library selectively collects sales publications and official records on legal and law-related topics such as human rights, law of the sea, and environmental law. These can be found by searching the Law Library catalog.

Full-text of many documents may be found on UN and UN specialized agency websites:

The Government Publications Division of the UW Libraries is a UN depository and receives most of the official records and working documents. These documents are invaluable to the researcher, but can be difficult to access and slow to arrive. They are not accessible through the UW Libraries Catalog but through a variety of print and electronic indexes, most notably AccessUN. The collection is organized by UN call number. Reference assistance is available fromGovernment Publications staff.

  • AccessUN, 1966-date, available through the UW Libraries Research Databases (UW Restricted), is an index of UN official records, resolutions, reports, proceedings, studies, and documents from selected specialized agencies. Includes links to selected full-text. UW Libraries subscribes to a microfiche collection of documents indexed, housed in Government Publications.
  • The United Nations Documentation: Research Guide provides an overview of the types of UN documents. Includes guide to document symbols.
  • UN Info Quest (UN-I-QUE) provides quick access to symbols and sales numbers of tens of thousands of selected UN documents from 1946 to date. Does not give full bibliographic citation. Created by the UN Reference Librarians to answer frequently asked questions.

Specialized agency documents may not be distributed through the UN depository program or appear in the standard indexes. UW Government Publicationscollects some and maintains card files for each agency. Many specialized agencies post documents on the Internet.


Intergovernmental Organizations (IGOs)

Updated July 19, 2007; PRJ.

See also the Gallagher guides on European Union Research and United Nations Research.


Research strategies include: gathering background information, checking MARIAN and the UW Libraries catalog, talking to Gallagher Law Library and UW Government Publications reference staff, and searching official and unofficial web resources. The UW Libraries is a depository for the United Nations and the European Union.

  • Yearbook of International Organizations: Guide to Global Civil Society Networks, JZ4836.Y43, current at Reference Office: volumes 1A and 1B (Organization Descriptions) and 3 (Classified Subject Guide and Index) only. This comprehensive directory provides contact information and extensive profiles that include history, activities, and organizational structure. Selected information from the Yearbook is available on the Internet.
  • International Governmental Organizations (from Northwestern University Library)
  • International Agencies and Information on the Web (from the University of Michigan Documents Center)

Research Guides

International Information: Documents, Publications, and Electronic Information of International Governmental Organizations, 2d ed. (Peter I. Hajnal, ed.). JZ4850.I58 at Reference Office
Two-volume work includes chapters on the United Nations, European Union, OECD, World Trade Organization, and International Monetary Fund.

Robert V. Williams, The Information Systems of International Inter-Governmental Organizations: A Reference Guide. JZ4850.W55 1998 at Reference Office
Focuses on print and electronic publications and documents.

Selected Organizations

Council of Europe

The Law Library collects Council of Europe treaties, reports, and many human rights publications.

  • Main website
  • European Treaty Series includes full text of treaties plus charts of signatures and ratifications.
  • European Conventions and Agreements (European Treaty Series), 1949/61-date. KZ625.8.E86 at Reference Area
  • European Court of Human Rights website includes recent judgments and a searchable database.
  • Recueil des Arr�ts et D�cisions=Reports of Judgments and Decisions. European Court of Human Rights, 1996-date. KJC5138.A5 at Classified Stacks. Continues Publications de la Cour Europ�enne des Droits de L’Homme. S�rie A. KJC5138.A5 at Classified Stacks
  • Anne Burnett, Guide to Researching the Council of Europe.

International Maritime Organization (IMO)

The Law Library collects selected IMO sales publications, including a few codes. The UW Libraries has a larger collection of IMO codes.

  • Main website includes news, status of conventions, and the full text of circulars. Site generally does not have the full-text of documents.
  • Resolutions and Other Decisions. K4150.A2I57 at Reference Area

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)

The Law Library collects selected OECD sales publications.

  • Main website
  • SourceOECD is a UW-restricted service containing full-text monographs, reports, and periodicals. Available through the UW Libraries Research Databases.

Organization of American States (OAS)

The Law Library collects some OAS human rights documents, but publication is slow and many titles are moving to the Internet. The OAS website is often more current than our print collection.

  • Main website links to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and Inter-American Commission of Human Rights under �OAS Structure.�
  • Inter-American Yearbook on Human Rights, 1985-1998. KDZ574.A58.I57 at Classified Stacks
    Includes reports and decisions of Inter-American Court of Human Rights and Inter-American Commission of Human Rights.

World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)

The Law Library collects some WIPO publications. Search Marian by author: World Intellectual Property Organization.

  • Main website includes the Collection of Laws for Electronic Access (CLEA) database, which contains the full text of WIPO treaties and the intellectual property legislation of a number of countries.

World Trade Organization (WTO)

The Law Library collects some WTO publications. The UW Libraries was a GATT/WTO documents depository until 2000.


European Union

Updated May 30, 2007; JF, with Pegeen Mulhern.

General Information

The European Union (EU)–not to be confused with the Council of Europe–is a treaty-created body of western European countries. It started in 1951 and, as of April 2007, includes twenty-five member states.

The primary objectives of the European Union are:

  • to promote economic and social progress (the single market was established in 1993; the single currency was launched in 1999)
  • to assert the identity of the European Union on the international scene (through European humanitarian aid to non-EU countries; common foreign and security policy; action in international crises; and common positions within international organizations)
  • to introduce European citizenship (which does not replace national citizenship but complements it and confers a number of civil and politic rights on European citizens)
  • to develop an area of freedom, security, and justice (linked to the operation of the internal market and more particularly the freedom of movement of persons)
  • to maintain and build on established EU law (all the legislation adopted by the European institutions, together with the founding treaties). (Source)


Essential European Union Websites

SCAD Plus: A bibliographic database with concise summaries of EU legislation in all policy areas; includes a glossary.

European Union Law: An Integrated Guide to Electronic and Print Research

EU Whoiswho, the Official Electronic Directory of the European Union

Duncan E. Alford, European Union Legal Materials97 Law Libr. J. 49, 74 (2005). Provides information about 11 European Union print and electronic research guides. Reprinted by GlobalLex.

Researching European Law-A Basic Introduction. A 21-page narrative guide to the European Union and how to find its law.

Finding Proposed Legislation Using EUR-Lex, also links to guides on Finding Proposed Legislation Using OEIL [the European Parliament’s ‘Legislative Observatory’] and Finding Proposed Legislation Using PreLex.

Primary Sources

Official Journal of the European Communities. Legislation (L-series). KJE908.L43 at Reference Area Microfiche (subscription cancelled in 2004)
Also available on the web (last 45 days), LexisNexis: EURCOM;LEGIS & Westlaw: EU-LEG.

EU Treaties are available on the web, LexisNexis: EUROPE;TREATY & Westlaw: EU-TREATIES.

EU Parliamentary Questions are available on the web (last two terms only), LexisNexis: EURCOM;PARLQ & Westlaw: EU-QUESTIONS.

EU Preparatory Acts (Legislation in Preparation; also known as Commission Documents) are available on the web  (full text), LexisNexis: EUROPE;PREPEC & Westlaw: EU-ACTS.

Primary Websites

list of the databases

European Court of Justice / Court of Justice of the European Communities

Official reports, “European Court Reports”

  • Reports of Cases Before the Court, 1979-89. KJE924.5.R46 at Classified Stacks
  • Reports of Cases Before the Court of Justice and the Court of First Instance, 1990-date. KJE924.5.R46 at Classified Stacks
  • Decisions from the years 1958-78 are at the same call number, but decisions are in French. Note that the judgments are also printed in the Official Journal.
  • Case-law. Court of Justice cases, 1953-date; Court of First Instance, 1989-date. 

Unofficial opinions

  • Common Market Law Reports, 1962-date. KJE923.7.C66 at Classified Stacks & Westlaw (CML-RPTS)
  • LexisNexis: EURCOM;ECJ, 1954-date
  • Westlaw: EU-CS, 1954-date
  • European Current Law, 1995-date. Not available at the Gallagher Law Library.

Other reports

  • European Court Reports: Reports of European Community Staff Cases (ECR-SC). 1994 to date, KJE924.5.E97 at Suzzallo/Allen Stacks & Suzzallo GovPubs Reference
  • Digest of Case Law Relating to the European Communities. CJ/EC D569 at Suzzallo Gov Pubs Stacks International. The Digest comprises two series, A-series and D-series.
  • Official Journal of the European Communities. Information and Notices (C-series).  KJE908.I53 at Reference Area Room Microfiche. The Official JournalC-series is also available on the web (last 45 days), LexisNexis: EURCOM;LEGIS & Westlaw EU-OJCSERIES.

Mixed Primary and Secondary Sources

European Union Law Reporter (CCH). KJE925.5.C65 at Reference Area
A looseleaf service with selected texts, digests, and commentary. Selected case reporting from 1989-date can be found in companion service, European Community Cases (CCH). KJE925.5.E9 at Reference Area

The Legislative Observatory is one of the best sources for tracking legislation within the EU.

PreLex is a database on inter-institutional procedures that follows the major stages of the decision-making process between institutions.

The Jean Monnet Program website includes an extensive collection of working papers on the EU and numerous other resources.

European Union Law in a Nutshell. KJE949.F55 at Reference Area
Provides an overview of EU law and institutions.

The Foundations of European Community Law: An Introduction to the Constitutional and Administrative Law of the European Community. KJE947.H37 at Classified Stacks
An introduction to the law of the European Union.

A Guide to European Union Law. KJE947.M38 at Reference Office
An introduction to EU institutions and law.

Directory of Community Legislation in Force and Other Acts of the Community Institutions. KJA0.D57 at Reference Area Microfiche
Organizes the legislation within the analytical structure of European Union law and lists European Union legislation by subject areas.

LexisNexis: WORLD;EUOBSV. The EU Observer is a daily news source.


Other Organizations

For information about the Council of Europe and the European Court of Human Rights, see the Intergovernmental Organizations (IGO) research guide.

The European Patent Office was created by a 1973 Convention and is not a  part of the EU or the Council of Europe.

The Committee of Regions


Foreign Law Research

Updated Oct. 28, 2009. JF. 

General Information

Foreign law is distinguished from international law in that foreign law is the law of a single non-United States jurisdiction. The laws of Mexico, Japan, and Manitoba are all considered foreign law.

Comparative law is a multi-jurisdictional study of foreign laws on the same topic, often involving synthesis and analysis, rather than a listing of the different laws.

The following sources will be useful when conducting foreign or comparative legal research. For more information see the Gallagher guide on Research in Foreign & Comparative Law.


Foreign Law Guide: Current Sources of Codes and Basic Legislation in Jurisdictions of the World. (also known as Reynolds & Flores) 
Excellent source identifying English-language translations of foreign countries’ laws. Also cites to original language materials. Very thorough.

Germain’s Transnational Law Research: A Guide for Attorneys. See Chapter V, “Countries.”
K85.G47 1991 at Reference Office

Introduction to Foreign Legal Systems
K55.I57 1994 at Reference Office

Accidental Tourist on the New Frontier: An Introductory Guide to Global Legal Research.
K85.A27 1998 at Reference Area & Reference Office

LLRX, Comparative / Foreign Law includes guides on cultural property, human rights, immigration law, Islamic law, parliamentary procedure, refugees, terrorism, and treaties.

GlobaLex contains and links to guides for foreign and comparative law research in many countries.

Georgetown Law Library, Foreign Laws on the Web

Washburn University Law Library, International Law Resources

New York University Law Library, Foreign Collections by Jurisdiction

The Gallagher guide on Legal and Judicial Systems in Countries Around the World.


Martindale-Hubbell International Law Digest. CD-ROM available on public computer terminals 25-28 in Reference Area & LexisNexis.
Summaries of the laws of most countries. Good starting place.

International Association of Legal Science, International Encyclopedia of Comparative Law, 1973-85. 
K530.I58 at Reference Area

Modern Legal Systems Cyclopedia
K530.M63 1984 at Reference Area

Examples of Foreign Law Compilations

The following sources collect the laws of various countries on specific topics. The list is not comprehensive but it provides examples of multi-jurisdictional materials. Sources are arranged by topic.

Foreign Tax Law Association, Commercial Laws of the World, 1976-2004. Publication ceased in 2004. 
K1004.15 1976 at Reference Area

Albert P. Blaustein & G.H. Flanz, eds. Constitutions of the Countries of the World: A Series of Updated Texts, Constitutional Chronologies and Annotated Bibliographies, 1971-date. 
K3157.A2B58 1971 at Reference Area

ECOLEX is a gateway to environmental law with treaties, soft law, and national legislation.

European Community Environment Legislation. Arranged by topic.
KJE6242.A42 1996 at Classified Stacks

FAOLEX (from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) indexes and abstracts of treaties, laws, and regulations taken from official gazettes of member nations. Subjects include biodiversity, environment, fisheries, forest, and wildlife.

International Environment Reporter: Reference File. Vols. 2-4 reprint many European Union decisions, directives, and regulations. Vol. 4 also includes summaries of environmental laws of 32 countries, with directory of environmental agencies.
K3585.4.I57, current at Reference Area, older at Classified Stacks

International Environmental, Health and Safety Regulations (current). LexisNexis & Westlaw: ENFLEX-INT.

International Environmental Law and Regulation.
Reviews and summarizes environmental laws and regulations and enforcement of these laws and regulations. Covers 23 countries. Most country chapters include citations to primary sources.
K3585.4I573 1991 at Classified Stacks

International Digest of Health Legislation, Vols. 1-32, 1948-81; Vol. 49, 1998-date. K3569.2.I57 at Classified Stacks & 614.05 IN at Suzzallo Health Sciences Reference Serials
Includes environmental protection and hazardous substances legislation.

The World Intellectual Property Organization’s Collection of Laws for Electronic Access (CLEA) contains intellectual property and industrial design laws.

International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes, Investment Laws of the World, 1972-date. 
K1112.A48 1973 at Reference Area

Natlex, is the International Labour Organization’s site that compiles national labor, social security, and human rights laws.

Selected Foreign Law Databases

Several commercial services and free websites provide online access to the laws, regulations, and cases of foreign countries.

LexisNexis includes laws from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Brunei, Canada, China & Hong Kong, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Philippines, Russia, Scotland, Singapore, South Africa, United Kingdom. The databases vary widely in scope and currency. See the LexisNexisSearchable Directory of Online Sources.

Westlaw includes laws from primarily Mexico and Europe. See the Westlaw Database Directory.

World Legal Information Institute provides cases, laws, and treaties from more than 50 jurisdictions, including Australia, Britain, Canada, Hong Kong, New Zealand, the Pacific Islands, and the World Trade Organization.

The Global Legal Information Network (GLIN), a project of the Law Library of Congress, includes abstracts of a wide array of foreign laws, but not the laws themselves.


Federal Legislative Materials

Updated July 19, 2007; CRN.

The U.S. Congress passes laws dealing with foreign relations, international trade, and other issues dealing with foreign countries and international organizations. The Gallagher Law Library has a strong collection of Congressional documents, which may be helpful in researching the U.S. position on international agreements, treaties, and other actions.

Some documents are in paper; some are in microfiche; some of the older materials are at Suzzallo; and recent material is on LexisNexis, Westlaw, and/or the Internet. See the Gallagher guide on Federal Legislative History for information about and links to Congressional documents.

The two committees that are most often involved in legislation relating to international issues are the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Relations Committee.