A specific type of reference has alrady been covered in Do answers need to reference written laws or court cases?, but a general reference question is, I think, in order.

What sources should answers be based on? The optimal sources are quotes from actual laws, of course, but Flup's point about those not being mandatory seems valid.

What are reputable sources that can be used in answers (and questions) on Law Stack Exchange?


Laws, law commentaires, explanatory notes on laws, court opinions, law school textbooks and books in general seem like very authoritative sources.

Then, opinions from people well-versed in the subject might be good sources. In this answer, I cited an article that's not written by a lawyer but is written by someone who interacts with the particular domain of law.

Also, written guides by major organizations (such as nation states) could give credency, whether these guides are written for employees (or bureaucrats) or customers (or the general public).

  • Agreed; with one comment: At least in the United States, many law school casebooks are perhaps not good sources, because of the unusual way legal education is often organized. Many casebooks are designed exclusively to provoke and support classroom discussion: they sometimes intentionally contain outdated, inapplicable, and/or confusing material. I don't think the same problem arises in other education systems, especially in civil-law countries. Jun 5 '15 at 17:55
  • There are also plenty of (jobbing) textbooks that are not particularly accurate. In some cases what they say may sort of be true but be easy to misquote or misunderstand and the result of that is frequently visible on the web. There's also a habit of citing something you didn't check elsewhere. I once found a case cited for a proposition that said the opposite (I was revising the chapter in a new edition, so fixed it, but many people already cited the previous edition). Mar 22 '17 at 8:37

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