Doing Research in History

Learn about the core resources for history research, and how to find and use them at Williams.

Reading Legal Citations

As you read court cases and secondary sources, you will see citations to cases. Here is an example citation with the elements defined (from West's Encyclopedia of American Law):


Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed. 2d 694 (1966)
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
  1. Case title. Indicates the names of the parties.
  2. Reporter volume. Indicates the volume of the reporter containing the case.
  3. Reporter name, abbreviated. In this example, it stands for U.S. Reports, which contains U.S. Supreme Court decisions. To decode abbreviations, use Bieber's Dictionary of Legal Abbreviations (SAWYER REFERENCE KF246 .B46 2001).
  4. Reporter page number. The first page of the case.
  5. Additional reporter citation. Cases can be reported in several reporters. In this example, the case also appears in volume 86 of Supreme Court Reporter at page 1602.
  6. Additional reporter citation. It was also reported in Lawyer's Edition, second series, volume 16, page 694.
  7. Year of the decision.

Best Bet Library Databases

Federal Statutory Law

Case Law: Federal District and State Courts

State Statutory Law