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Introduction to Foreign and International Legal Research

Overview

This portion of the guide covers selected sources and strategies for finding full-text bilateral and multilateral treaties in both official and unofficial sources. Many treaties are now available online. Other terms for treaties include: accord, charter, convention, covenant, declaration, executive agreement, protocol, and more.

For more in-depth treaty research guidance, please consult a secondary source on treaties or an additional treaty research guide, or contact a reference librarian.

Quick Start: Finding Frequently-Cited Treaties

Written with law review cite-checkers in mind, the University of Minnesota Law Library's guide to Frequently-Cited Treaties and Other International Instruments provides Bluebook citations to treaties frequently cited in law review articles and provides links to full-text documents, including those in official sources where available. It is advised to double-check treaty citations against the rules in the current edition of The Bluebook.

Finding Treaties to Which the United States Is a Party

Bilateral treaties are between two parties. Below are starting suggestions for researching bilateral treaties where the U.S. is one party to the treaty.

A. Start with a Treaty Index

A treaty index can help you locate citations to specific treaties. Treaties in Force (T.I.F.) is an annual U.S. State Department publication providing citations to bilateral and multilateral treaties to which the U.S. is presently a party. You can locate treaty citations by country or by subject. T.I.F. is available on the U.S. State Department website, in HeinOnline, and in Westlaw and Lexis.

Once you locate a citation in Treaties in Force, it is a good idea to update your research in the supplemental State Department publication Treaties and Other International Acts (T.I.A.S.). Check T.I.A.S. for every year after the most recent T.I.F. publication date.

 

B. Search Official and Unofficial Full-Text Treaty Sources

Once you have a citation to a treaty, you can look up the text of that treaty in a full-text source.

Bluebook Rule 21.4.5(a) lists preferred sources to cite for bilateral treaties between the U.S. and another party. Print or online versions of these sources are listed below, in order of Bluebook preference.

If the treaty you need does not appear in one of the below official sources, consult an unofficial source, which may be cited per Bluebook Rule 21.4.5(c). The Library of Congress has also published a short but helpful beginner's guide to finding U.S. treaties.

 

1. U.S.T (or Stat.)

U.S.T. (United States Treaties and Other International Agreements(the official U.S. publication for United States national treaties, published by the U.S. Department of State. Contains treaties that entered into force 1950-1984.)

Stat. (U.S. Statutes at Large) (containing treaties that entered into force 1778-1949)

 

2. T.I.A.S. (or T.S. or E.A.S.)

T.I.A.S. (Treaties and Other International Agreements) (contains the slip format of treaties published in U.S.T.)

T.S. (Treaty Series)

E.A.S. (Executive Agreement Series)

 

3. U.N.T.S. (United Nations Treaty Series)

 

4. Senate Treaty Documents or Senate Executive Documents

Senate Treaty Documents contain the text of treaties from 1981 (97th Congress) to present. From 1921-1980, these documents were known as Senate Executive Documents.

 

5. Department of State Dispatch (published 1990-1999)

 

6. Department of State Press Releases

Multilateral treaties are between three or more parties. Below are starting suggestions for researching multilateral treaties where the U.S. is one party to the treaty.

 

A. Start with a Treaty Index

A treaty index can help you locate citations to specific treaties. Treaties in Force (T.I.F.) is an annual U.S. State Department publication providing citations to bilateral and multilateral treaties to which the U.S. is presently a party. You can locate treaty citations by country or by subject. T.I.F. is available on the U.S. State Department website, in HeinOnline, and in Westlaw and Lexis.

Once you locate a citation in Treaties in Force, it is a good idea to update your research in the supplemental State Department publication Treaties and Other International Acts (T.I.A.S.), which is typically more up-to-date than T.I.F. Check T.I.A.S. for every year after the most recent T.I.F. publication date.

 

B. Search Official and Unofficial Full-Text Treaty Sources

Once you have a citation to a treaty, you can look up the text of that treaty in a full-text source. Bluebook Rule 21.4.5(a)(ii) requires citation to a U.S. domestic sources (check the Bilateral Treaties tab, above).

You may also add a parallel citation to one source published by an international organization. Examples of such sources include:

European Treaty Series (E.T.S.) or Council of Europe Treaty Series (C.E.T.S.)

United Nations Treaty Series (U.N.T.S.)

League of Nations Treaty Series (L.N.T.S.)

Organization of American States Treaty Series (O.A.S.T.S.)

Pan-American Union Treaty Series (Pan-Am. T..S.)

Official Journal of the European Union (previously the Official Journal of the European Communities) (O.J.)

  • EUR-Lex (1952-) (note that issues from some earlier years may not be available in English)
  • Mabie Law Library microform collection: KJE 908 L44  (1978-2003)

Finding Treaties for Which the United States Is Not a Party

Bluebook Rule 21.4.5(b) permits citation to a source published by an international organization, such as those listed above for Multilateral Treaties under "Sources of Treaties for Which the United States Is a Party", if therein.

Otherwise, consult Table T2 of The Bluebook for a list of foreign treaty sources by country. (Note that as of the 21st edition of The Bluebook (released in summer 2020), T2 is available online only.)

Additional Online Treaty Sources

Per Bluebook Rule 21.4.5.(c), the Bluebook-preferred unofficial treaty source is International Legal Materials (I.L.M.), located in:

Other unofficial sources for treaties include:

Other sources include the websites of foreign governments, or of international governmental organizations (IGOs) such as the United Nations or NATO.

Treaty Drafting Histories and Historical Treaty Research

If you are researching the drafting history of treaties (also known as "travaux preparatoires") or historical treaties, please consult one of the following specialized research guides:

Selected Books on Treaty Law

More Treaty Research Guides and Resources