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Contract Law: Secondary Sources

Treatises, Hornbooks and Nutshells

Treatises are in-depth treatments of a legal subject written by scholars in the field. Consult them at any stage in your research -- whether you're looking for an overview of the subject or detailed analysis of a particular point of law.  Pay attention to the footnotes for references to other sources, both primary and secondary.  Identify them by their "_____ on _______" titles.

Hornbooks are shorter treatises written with law students and practitioners in mind.

Nutshells are brief, handy overviews of an area of law.  Pick one up when you want a quick introduction to a subject, or use as a reference or study guide.

Legal Encyclopedias

American Jurisprudence 2dLegal Encyclopedias are a great way to start research on an unfamiliar topic. They offer concise explanations on subjects from the broad to the specific, and help lead you to other relevant secondary sources.

American Jurisprudence (AmJur.) and Corpus Juris Secundum (C.J.S.) are the major national encyclopedias, but many individual states publish them as well (e.g. - Massachusetts Practice or New York Jurisprudence).  

Use your keywords to search the index to find relevant entries.  Here are a few examples: 

  • 17A Am.Jur.2d Contracts § 109 - Waiver or estoppel; doctrine of promissory estoppel
  • 17A Am.Jur.2d Contracts § 412 - Generally; who is bound by contractCorpus Juris Secundum
  • 17 C.J.S. Contracts § 1 - Contract and related terms defined
  • 17A C.J.S. Contracts § 454 - Express warranties
  • 77A C.J.S. Sales § 604 - Damages for breach in regard to accepted goods
  • 14 Mass. Prac. Summary of Basic Law § 5.31 - Statute of Frauds basic requirement of writing

American Jurisprudence is available on Westlaw and Lexis.  

Corpus Juris Secundum is available on Westlaw.  

Find selected state encyclopedias through Scholar OneSearch or on Westlaw or Lexis.


Restatements are summaries of the common law written by a respected group of judges, lawyers and law professors for the non-profit American Law Institute (ALI).

Restatements are not law, but because of the scholars behind them, they are considered one of the most influential secondary sources.

Take note of the instructive comments, illustrations and reporters notes following each summary of law.  

American Law Reports (ALR)

ALR5th setAmerican Law Reports (ALR) are annotations summarizing selected appellate court cases notable for particular legal issues.  Use these for the valuable research references they provide to primary sources and other secondary sources -- especially helpful when there are jurisdictional divides on a point of law.  Also try American Law Reports - Federal (ALR Fed.) for annotations of federal cases specifically.

Find annotations by searching the ALR index for your broader topic (such as Contracts or Uniform Commercial Code), and then identifying the subtopics relevant to your research issue.

Here are two examples:

Index > Contracts > Prospective Contractual Relations

Richard D. English, J.D., Annotation, Liability for Tortious Interference With Prospective Contractual Relations Involving Sale of Business, Stock or Real Estate, 71 A.L.R.5th 491 (West 1999, Supp. 2012)

Law Stacks KF132.A55 - also available on Westlaw

Index > Uniform Commercial Code > Acceptance

William H. Danne, Jr., J.D., Annotation, Use of Goods By Buyer as Constituting Acceptance Under UCC § 2-606(1)(c), 67 A.L.R.3d 363 (West 1975, Supp. 2012)   

Law Stacks KF132.A53 - also avaiable on Westlaw

Other Books

Both the Law Library and Snell Library (the main NU library) have many other books on contracts and contract-related subjects. To find them, try these Library of Congress SUBJECT searches in Scholar OneSearch:

Contracts -- United States

Contracts -- Massachusetts 

Contracts -- Interpretation and construction

Contracts -- Language

Sales -- United States

Commercial Law -- United States

Uniform Commercial Code

Uniform Commercial Code. Sales

Security (Law) -- United States  for secured transactions research

Journal Articles

To find law journal and law review articles on any aspect of contracts or commercial law, use one of the following tools available via a link from the Law Library's Research Databases page:

  • Current Index to Legal Periodicals
  • Index to Legal Periodicals
  • LegalTrac
  • HeinOnline's Law Journal Library

HeinOnline, Lexis and Westlaw have selective full-text coverage of law review and law journal articles.