Pennsylvania Legal Research

by Marc Silverman
Barco Law Library - University of Pittsburgh


This article has been prepared to serve as a quick guide to Pennsylvania legal materials. It is not my intent to provide a finely detailed all-inclusive handbook for Pennsylvania legal research. The audience who will find this most useful will be librarians from other states who occasionally must deal with Pennsylvania sources, attorneys relocating to Pennsylvania, and the new law school graduate who probably has had a limited exposure to many of the sources included here. This publication is intended to highlight the most important Pennsylvania sources pointing out their quirks and difficulties to the researcher who already has basic legal research skills. Thus you will not find a discussion of the West topic and key number system or a description of the process of Shepardizing in this publication. Lexis and Westlaw are occasionally mentioned but not really dealt with in any detail. I have arranged the sources into two groups, secondary and primary materials. Because these sources do change in format and content over time the reader should be aware that some of the details I have provided may become dated.
Since I originally published this article, the Internet has begun to show promise as a serious research tool. At this time its greatest limitations are the lack of retrospective material and the reliability of individual sites. There are numerous instances of persons or organizations developing a website and then not updating it for a significant period of time. The researcher should always be cautious when using any source, print or electronic, as to where the information is coming from and how up-to-date it is.

Click on the live  links below to view the appropriate sections of the PA Research Guide.


Primary Sources & Other Materials:

Judicial Materials:

  • Appellate Reports
  • Side Reports
  • Case Digests
  • Briefs

Legislative & Administrative Materials:

  • Bills
  • Constitutions
  • Session Laws
  • Codifications
  • Legislative History
  • Administrative Regulations
  • Administrative Decisions
  • Attorney General Decisions



  • Encyclopedias
  • Periodicals
  • Treatises
  • Form Books
  • Shepards