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Environmental Planning Law (PLAN 6200): Finding Resources

For students in the Master of Environmental Planning & Design program


Returning to the question of finding the relevant law, most researchers start with secondary sources. Court opinions, statutes, regulations are expressions of the law. They are primary sources. Legal researchers have to consult the primary resources and understand their application and operation. Secondary sources help us understand the primary sources.

Basically everything that is not primary is secondary. They are the sources that describe or discuss or analyze the primary sources. They are used by researchers to help narrow down the massive amount of primary material to the relevant items.

There are a wide variety of secondary sources. 

  • Encyclopedias
    • In my opinion the number one most useful tool to use when starting a research project is a legal encyclopedia. The encyclopedia will give you an introduction and overview of the area of law, it will introduce the relevant terminology, it will include citations to statutes, regulations, and representative cases.
    • American Jurisprudence (AmJur) is available in LexisNexis Academic* > "Search by Content Type" >"Legal Reference" > "Advanced Options"
    • Zimmerman’s Research Guide which is an online encyclopedia
  • Treatises - A treatise is a scholarly treatment of an area of law, it may be one or multiple volumes depending upon the broadness or narrowness of the topic.
    • LexisNexis Academic* > Search by Content Type > Environmental Studies
    • GAVEL - use subject headings and date restrictions
    • Bloomberg BNA - legal, regulatory, economic & international law; must use in Law Library
  • Law Review & Journal Articles - very useful for newer topics
    • Specialized indexes
      • Review the list.
      • The online indexes indicate if the journal is owned by the law library or the main library.
    • Fulltext availability - if the database you have searched does not contain the fulltext article you may be able to find it somewhere else. Places to check:
      • GAVEL - online catalog of the law library. If a journal is part of a database subscribed to by the law library the catalog provides a link to the online resource.
      • GIL- online catalog of the main library. Only contains the print journals. Use the E-journal Locator to determine if the main library subscribes to an electronic version of the journal.
      • Publisher's web site
      • JURN - locate free, full-text articles in scholarly journals in the arts, humanities and social sciences
      • Hein Online - Hein Online is a great resource with fulltext PDF versions. Smiley that says: “I’m in love!” (Smiley with a heart)


  • American Law Reports - are articles, referred to as annotations, that gather all of the cases on a fairly narrow topic
  • Annotated Materials
    • Contain research references
    • Contain citations to other cases, statutes, administrative rules/regulations, forms, and law review and journal articles.
    • Always use annotated materials if they are available
    • Annotated Codes - case notes give a brief discussion of cases which site particular statutes. Look at the other references as well. If you have access to another annotated set take the time to look at it. While there may be a lot of overlap or duplication between sets there will be unique references.
      • Online
      • Print (all available in the Law Library's Reference area)
        • U.S. Code Annotated (USCA)
        • U.S. Code Service (USCS)
        • Official Code of Georgia (OCGA)
        • West’s Code of Georgia Annotated

*More information about LexisNexis Academic in the box below.

    LexisNexis Academic

    The LexisNexis Academic service is a smaller set of the LexisNexis Research Service used by attorneys. The Academic service contains federal and state statutes, court opinions, and law review articles. LexisNexis Academic is available through GALILEO (Databases A-Z > "L" > LexisNexis Academic). Obtain the password for off campus access.

    Search Forms

    Academic Knowledge Center -  help resources

    Generally try to use field searches unless your search terminology is very specific. Narrowing by date is an effective way to limit a large search result.

    Our contract with LexisNexis prohibits us from issuing individual LexisNexis accounts to non-law students. Review the policy.

    Online Resources

    Albany Law School, Government Law Online - A clearinghouse service that contains a collection of government law and public policy articles, studies, papers, and reports written by the faculty, staff, and students of the law school.

    Center for Climate Change Law, Columbia Law School

    Conservation Law - articles and presentations by lawyer Jessica E. Jay

    Cyburbia - A portal for many kinds of land use planning and regulation information; informative posts and forums to facilitate idea exchange.

    DIRT - A legal discussion group for real estate professionals, the daily postings tend to focus on recent court opinions or other legal developments. There is a searchable archive dating back to 1995.

    Environmental Law Institute

    Georgetown Climate Center - resources for state and federal policy

    Harvard Project on Climate Agreement, John F. Kennedy School of Government

    Land Use Law - Maintained by Professor Daniel Mandelker, the site provides recent cases of national significance and articles on current hot topics.

    NYU School of Law, Guarini Center on Environmental, Energy and Land Use Law

    Pace University Law School

    Land Use Law Center

    GreenLaw - blog of Environmental Law Program

    SignLaw - A website that focuses on the law of signs, billboards, outdoor advertising, public forum and related topics.

    Smart Communities Network - Previously maintained by the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) under a government contract, much of the information is still useful.

    Sustainable Community Development Code, University of Denver, Sturm College of Law - a framework for local governments to include sustainability ideas in land use laws

    United Nations

    Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Division for Sustainable Development


    Urban Land Institute

    Urbanicity (formerly Urban Cities) - A portal with a particularly extensive collection of current articles

    Vermont Journal of Environmental Law - Top Ten Environmental Watch List

    Advocacy and Membership Organizations

    Blogs and News

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