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Comparative and International Environmental Law Research: Research Strategies

A comprehensive collection of research resources on foreign, comparative, and international environmental law

Where to Start?

When you approach a research topic on foreign or comparative law, your first step should be to use English-languagsecondary sources to acquaint yourself with the characteristics of a foreign legal system or comparative law sources and methods. 

Secondary sources often provide commentary on the legal issue, put the legal issue in context, and/or  provide a summary of the relevant legal documentation.

Research Steps

1. Identify what you need

  • Do you need a constitution, a specific statute, a case, or general information?
  • Do you have a citation to the law, case, etc.?
  • What are the dates?
  • Do you need the complete text of the law, a summary, an English translation, or a detailed explanation?

2. Identify the sources of law for the country

  • Does the country publish codes, compilations of statutes or reporters?
  • A good source for gathering this information is the Foreign Law Guide database (VLS login required).
  • Once you have identified a source, check JULIEN the library catalog or other bibliographic databases to determine if the item is available. (Note: Search in JULIEN for book or journal titles, not article titles. )

3. Understand the structure of the foreign legal system

  • Is it a civil law system based on codes, a common law system (such as the United States) or a mixed system? Some legal systems are influenced by religious law. 
  • It's very helpful to know the basics of the legal system and also useful to have general background information on the country. Library of Congress has an Introduction to China's Legal System

4. Use a secondary source

  • A secondary source, such as a journal article or a book, can help you at any stage of your research.
  • Secondary sources may describe the law or legal issue, provide a citation or include commentary. See the section on Books and Subscription Databases in this guide for more help.



Credit: Adapted from Georgetown Law Library research guide. Source: