Section 1.3.2: Characteristics of Legal Materials

Fundamentals of Procedural Law by Adam J. McKee

Legal research is a critical skill in the field of criminal justice, following a process that, while similar to general research, has its unique elements. An understanding of legal materials like law books and how they’re organized is essential. Legal materials frequently include comprehensive tables of contents and indexes.

Organization of Legal Materials

Much like any other book, legal materials provide a table of contents that outlines the contents of the book. Additionally, they feature an index, which serves as a subject list offering corresponding page numbers. This arrangement allows readers to quickly locate specific sections or topics, thereby facilitating more effective and efficient research.

However, it’s important to note that case reporters, which record and publish court decisions, are exceptions to the general rule of providing tables of contents and indexes.

Tables in Legal Materials

Legal materials typically contain several helpful tables. Among these is a table of abbreviations, which helps readers understand shorthand used in legal contexts; a table of cases, providing a quick reference for specific court cases discussed; and a table of statutes, listing the laws referenced in the material.

Old School Legal Materials: Pocket Parts

While law books and non-legal books share many similarities, a significant distinguishing feature of many law books is the inclusion of pocket parts.

Understanding Pocket Parts

Pocket parts are small supplements or updates that provide recent changes in the law. These changes could be new laws, modifications to existing laws, or fresh interpretations of laws by the courts.

Law books containing pocket parts have a specially designed “pocket” inside the book cover. This pocket holds the supplemental updates, allowing readers to stay current with the evolving legal landscape.

Using Pocket Parts for Research

When using print resources for legal research, it’s vital to check the book’s back cover for pocket parts. By examining these supplements, researchers can ensure their understanding of the law is up to date. Thus, pocket parts contribute to the accuracy and relevance of legal research.  Today, researchers will find the most up-to-date resources online.  Knowing about pocket parts underscores the need for the most recent information and warns students to check the currency of the laws they cite.


Legal research in criminal justice follows a structure akin to general research but has specific elements unique to the legal field. Legal materials usually include comprehensive tables of contents and indexes for easy navigation, along with several beneficial tables, such as those for abbreviations, cases, and statutes. A distinguishing feature of law books is the presence of pocket parts—supplements that provide updates on recent changes in the law. Researchers using print resources must check for these pocket parts to maintain the relevance and accuracy of their research.

Modification History

File Created:  08/07/2018

Last Modified:  06/29/2023

[ Back | Content | Next]

This work is licensed under an Open Educational Resource-Quality Master Source (OER-QMS) License.

Open Education Resource--Quality Master Source License


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.