Comparison of Encyclopedias and Treatises
A section of a torts treatise, Dobbs' Law of Torts, is below. Notice how a treatise is formatted similarly to an encyclopedia:
A difference is that the treatise provides more depth and complexity than the encyclopedia, both in the text and in the footnotes.
The treatise above discusses rules that various courts use to determine liability for injuries to children on land, and the reasoning for those rules. This discussion may be helpful when a researcher has been given one viewpoint (such as the National Park Service's viewpoint) and needs to articulate a different viewpoint (such as the client's).
Starting case law research from the footnotes in a treatise helps the researcher pinpoint cases that support a particular view.
Nutshells are single volume paperback books that provide a quick overview of an area of law. Nutshells summarize the law and highlight key cases, statutes, and regulations, providing a bit more detail than a legal encyclopedia.
Hornbooks are created for students to supplement their casebooks. They provide more in-depth information than a Nutshell to help students and practitioners expand their knowledge in a particular area of law.
Some widely respected treatises are considered definitive sources within their subject areas and are sometimes cited by courts. The name of the original author almost becomes part of the title of the treatise, even after others take over the work of updating. Examples include:
Moore's Federal Practice
Collier on Bankruptcy
Dobbs' The Law of Torts
Bar Association Publications
State bar associations like the South Carolina Bar Association and the American Bar Association publish books and materials of interest to lawyers who practice in particular areas of law, both state and federal. Bar associations usually publish practical treatises that may include tips for law practice and example documents or forms.
For example, if you wish to research the law on attractive nuisance in South Carolina, you might consult The South Carolina Law of Torts.
Remember that online treatises are not necessarily updated more often than print treatises. Information in a treatise that is online as of today might not be current as of today.
Check the edition and publication date (or copyright date) of any treatise you consult, online or in print, because major changes in the law could make an older treatise unreliable. If the copyright date is several years old, check for a new edition or replacement for that treatise. For example, Prosser and Keeton on Torts has been been continued by The Law of Torts by Dobbs, et al. (see citation examples below). Some treatises in print are supplemented with pocket parts or separate pamphlets to add new commentary and citations to more recent primary authority.
Even if a treatise was updated recently, new cases are decided every day. Check for new cases decided after the publication date of the treatise. If you are going to rely on a case, statute, or regulation cited in a treatise, use a citator to make sure it is still good law.
Many major state and federal treatises are available online via Westlaw, Lexis, or both. Bloomberg Law also includes trusted books and treatises, especially on health law and tax law topics. Fastcase focuses on providing treatises published by the South Carolina Bar to members of the South Carolina Bar, but each treatise is an optional paid add-on to the free Fastcase subscription.
You can use the Law Library Catalog to search for treatises by keyword, title, and author.
If you find a treatise in print on your topic, the catalog record will include the location and call number where you can retrieve the book from the library shelves.
Additional options may be available after you sign in with your UofSC login.
Electronic versions of some treatises may be listed in the catalog.
The catalog record will include the link to the electronic platform through which you can access the treatise. In some cases, you sign in with your UofSC login to access an electronic treatise. In other cases, you can access the treatise through Lexis or Westlaw. Or it may be necessary to ask a librarian for assistance.
The best way to search for a treatise on Westlaw depends on whether there is a specific treatise you already know you want, or if you are looking for the most relevant treatise available.
If you know the title of a particular treatise, from the homepage, start typing the name of the treatise in the search box and select it from the drop-down that appears.
Once you select a title, you can browse by Part or Chapter heading, or use the search bar at the top of the page to search the full text of that treatise only.
Click on a link to read a specific section from your results.
Then use the Previous and Next arrows or the Table of Contents to browse surrounding sections in that chapter.
If you do not know of a specific treatise in the area of law you are researching, select Secondary Sources from the homepage.
Under Secondary Sources By Type, choose Texts & Treatises.
Now you can use the search bar to search the entire Texts & Treatises database, or you can use filters on the left to narrow your search to treatises on a particular topic or that cover the law of a particular state.
If you’re looking for a specific treatise in Lexis, from the home page, start typing the title in the search box. Select the title when it appears as a choice.
You can browse by Part or Chapter heading.
Or search the table of contents for that treatise only.
Select a link to read a specific section from your results.
Then use the Table of Contents on the left, or the Previous Section or Next Section links, or links in the Heading to browse surrounding sections in that chapter.
If you do not know of a specific treatise in the area of law you are researching, select Treatises & Guides (below Secondary Materials) from the Content tab in the Explore section on the homepage.
From the Treatises, Guides & Jurisprudence page, you can search the entire treatises database.
You can also browse for treatises by state or by topic.
The Getting Started page of this textbook provides information on troubleshooting a login to Bloomberg Law.
To find a treatise in Bloomberg Law, from the homepage under Popular Links, select Books & Treatises.
You can do a keyword search of the full text of the books and treatises in Bloomberg Law's database. Another option—if you already know preferred titles or publishers—is to check the box next to particular titles or publishers in the SOURCES list below the keyword search. Checking boxes in the SOURCES list can be efficient because it limits your keyword search results to the particular sources you want, instead of searching the entire database of secondary sources.
Select a search result to read that section of a treatise.
Then use the Previous and Next links or Table of Contents link to browse surrounding sections in that publication. Or use the links above to jump to other portions of the publication.
Citing treatises according to Bluebook Rules B15 and R15:
Citations to treatises include five parts:
Below are examples of citations to two torts treatises in print that have sections discussing the attractive nuisance doctrine. NOTE: Dobbs' The Law of Torts continues the no longer updated Prosser and Keeton on the Law of Torts.
Prosser and Keeton on the Law of Torts 399-403 (W. Page Keeton et al. eds., 5th ed. 1984).
Dan B. Dobbs, Paul T. Hayden & Ellen M. Bublick, The Law of Torts 733-39 (2d ed. 2011).
Other examples of citations to treatises in print:
Grady L. Beard et al., The Law of Workers’ Compensation in South Carolina 102 (6th ed. 2012).
3 Wayne R. LaFave, Search and Seizure: A Treatise on the Fourth Amendment 301 (5th ed. 2012).
Citing online treatises according to Bluebook Rule 15.9:
Use the date of the last update, as shown in the database.
Dan B. Dobbs, Paul T. Hayden & Ellen M. Bublick, The Law of Torts § 277, Westlaw (database updated July 2022).