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SUNY Geneseo Fraser Hall Library Subject Guides

SOCL 317/PLSC 357 - Gender & Law - Kirk: Home

SOCL 317 Term Paper

Today's library session is focused on preparing you for your term paper research. This paper requires you to provide legal analysis of a specific gender law topic selected by you (must be approved by Dr. Kirk). You will need to research your legal issue from a variety of perspectives, including:

  • Substantiate all statements of fact and argument with evidence from at least 10 primary and secondary cited sources (including various kinds of law AND academic and media commentary).

  • Discuss historical and current legal issues, and implications for women and other minorities in light of social/economic/political outcomes (and extent of non-/compliance)

  • Incorporate diverse perspectives/dissenting opinions from legislative debate, case law and academic discussion

  • Analyze applicable constitutional, statute, treaty and case law (although for civil law countries the latter may be less significant, depending on the topic)

Primary & Secondary Sources in Legal Research

The materials used for legal research are generally divided into two broad categories: primary sources and secondary sources.  Primary legal sources are the actual law in the form of constitutions, court cases, statutes, and administrative rules and regulations.  Secondary legal sources may restate the law, but they also discuss, analyze, describe, explain, or critique it as well.  Secondary sources are used to help locate primary sources of law, define legal words and phrases, or help in legal research.  In short, anything that is more than the actual law is considered a secondary source.

Primary law consists of sources that state the actual law.  These sources include:                                                                                               

o  Constitution (either federal or state) [United States Constitution, Washington State Constitution]

o  Statutes (laws enacted by legislatures); municipal codes (enacted by local councils) [United States Code, Revised Code of Washington, King County Code, Seattle Municipal Code]

o  Court cases (opinions handed down by courts) [United States and state appellate courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court  and  State Supreme Courts]

o  Rules and Regulations (established by administrative government agencies) [examples include U.S. Environmental Protection Agency]

o  Treaties [Geneva Convention,  North American Free Trade Agreement, Worldwide Chemical Weapons Convention]

Secondary Law consists of sources that explain, criticize, discuss, or help locate primary law.  Examples of secondary legal sources include:


o  Legal dictionaries [Black’s Law Dictionary, Nolo’s Plain English Law Dictionary]

o  Legal encyclopedias and digests [Gale Encyclopedia of American LawAmerican Jurisprudence, Washington Digest]

 Law reviews and journals (& journal articles) [Virginia Law ReviewSeattle University Law Review, Yale Law Journal]

o  Legal treatises, nutshells, hornbooks, deskbooks [Criminal Law in a Nutshell, Principles of Employment LawAmerican Constitutional Law, Washington Civil Procedure Deskbook]

o  Manuals and guides on how to practice law [Washington PracticeWashington Lawyers Practice Manual]

Content by Highline College Libraries.

Librarian, Head of Library Research Instruction Services

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Brandon West
203A Fraser
Subjects: Anthropology, Sociology