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Foreign, Comparative, and International Legal Research

This guide is a selection of resources for researching the laws of other nations, international law, and comparative law.


This guide contains select resources for researching foreign, comparative, and international law. The Jaqua Law Library provides a wide range of resources in both electronic and print formats relevant to this area of legal research, with many of these resources available to the entire UO community. This guide will also include free resources available on the internet. This guide is intended to be a starting point for research with select resources. Please contact the reference librarians for any research questions.


Understanding the vocabulary of foreign, comparative, and international law is helpful before approaching research in these fields. The following are basic working definitions of foreign, international, and comparative law.

Foreign Law

In legal research in the US, foreign law. or national law, refers to the domestic laws of a particular country. It  is comprised of constitutions, statutes, regulations, and cases depending on jurisdiction. An understanding of global legal systems is important when researching jurisdictions outside of the US. It is generally accepted that there are five main legal systems: civil law, common law, customary law, religious law, and mixed legal systems. Mixed legal systems mean that there are features of two or more legal systems present in the same jurisdiction.

International Law

Public international law oversees relationships among governments and international organizations, while private international law (also known as conflict of laws) pertains to cross-border legal disputes between individuals.

Public international law doesn't have a single source. Instead, the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the primary judicial body of the United Nations, identifies four sources of international law according to Article 38 of its foundational statute: international conventions (treaties) whether general or particular, establishing rules expressly recognized by the contesting states; international custom, as evidence of a general practice accepted as law; the general principles of law recognized by civilized nations; and subject to the provisions of Article 59, judicial decisions and the teachings of the most highly qualified publicists of the various nations, as subsidiary means for the determination of rules of law.

Comparative Law

Comparative law is an approach to legal inquiry that involves the examination and analysis of legal systems across different countries or jurisdictions. This method seeks to uncover similarities, differences, and patterns within various legal frameworks, aiming to draw insights that can advance legal scholarship and practice. Researchers in comparative law delve into the legal principles, doctrines, jurisprudence, and often the cultural and historical contexts that shape these systems. In practice, conducting research in comparative law often resembles foreign law research, where the focus shifts to comprehending the intricacies of the legal systems of specific jurisdictions.


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The Research Path

Like domestic legal research, the best way to begin is by finding a reliable secondary source that orients you in your research and points you in the direction of primary sources of law.