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International law

Research strategies

Locate background information:

  • Newspapers: Popular sources that provide a brief overview of current developments on international legal issues.  Useful for gathering ideas for research paper topics and identifying sponsoring agencies, relevant organization(s) and participating countries.  Can also identify experts in a given field.
  • Reference Tools:  Can provide a brief discussion on international legal issues and treaties and offer overviews of international organizations.  These tools will also give clues about terminology you can use in your online searches. 
  • Yearbooks: Provide a general overview of legal issues and developments.  Can help verify the relevant international organization and provide selective citations to resolutions, treaties and scholarship.  A good research strategy is to consult several yearbooks or publications from several countries.  You will gather information about different perspectives on the same international law issue.  

Locate in-depth information on your topic:

  • Journal articles: Scholarly articles provide in-depth analysis on a topic and will include citations to other relevant sources.  Because of the shorter publication cycle, articles are often the best source for research in an emerging area.
  • Books: Books "put into focus the structure and form of international law and of elucidating the nature, history, and practice of rules of law" (Shaw, International Law, 113). Books can also provide a general overview or present an in-depth analysis on a topic as well as include extensive citations.
  • Films: Feature films and documentaries can provide valuable information for the researcher.  Documentaries often include interviews with leaders and experts in international law and they sometimes include images taken from archival materials.  Often, these films include eye witness accounts of major events and conflict. 
  • Public policy documents: Policy documents from governments and international organizations are often contained in electronic collections.  Policy may be contained in many types of documents, for example, speeches, reports, studies and legislative debates.

Treaties and Conventions: 

  • Article 2 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties defines a treaty as "an international agreement concluded between states in written form and governed international law".  Treaties form the basis of relations between governments.  Treaties are accessed in print or online collections organized by the signatory countries or an organizing international body.

Judicial Decisions:

  • Full text case decisions are often available through tribunal or court websites.

Related guides

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