For federal topics, a number of secondary sources may be consulted.
Law review articles are frequently helpful for background research of current issues in the law, and can be found by searching the full text of a periodical database, or by using a periodical index.
Lexis and Westlaw provide databases that include legal periodicals and some treatises. HeinOnline also provides access to legal periodicals. Google Scholar allows users to search for legal periodicals and gives the law school community access to full text of articles through the library’s subscription to HeinOnline and other databases.
Electronic periodical indexes include the Current Index to Legal Periodicals, Legal Periodicals and Books (aka Index to Legal Periodicals and Books or ILP) and LegalTrac aka Current Law Index, Legal Resource Index, or LRI )Periodical indexes are searchable by subject keyword, title, author, and abstract text, and provide coverage from 1980 to present. Some indexes are searchable by the popular name of a statute (e.g., the Americans With Disabilities Act) or by case name (e.g. Roe v. Wade). To find periodicals prior to 1980, one option is to go to the periodical indexes in print. Print indexes are arranged first by year, and then by topic, title, and author. Alternatively, search HeinOnline’s Law Journal Library.
A.L.R. Federal provides heavily annotated articles on current issues. It may be searched through its print indexes or electronically on Westlaw.
In some areas of federal law, authoritative treatises may be a very valuable source both for background analysis and citations to primary authorities. One such subject area is civil procedure, in which useful treatises include Charles Alan Wright et al., Federal Practice and Procedure (KF8816.W7) (often referred to as "Wright & Miller") and Moore's Federal Practice (KF8816.M63). For other subject areas, try using the library catalog or browsing to relevant topic areas in Bloomberg Law, Lexis, and Westlaw.
Legal encyclopedias provide general legal principles and are helpful case-finding tools. For example, American Jurisprudence 2d focuses its coverage on federal topics.
Cross-references to many secondary sources are provided in the federal annotated codes, U.S.C.A. and U.S.C.S. If you know the relevant statute, try looking in these codes for references to other materials. These references appear after the statutory language and before the case annotations.