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Basics of International and Foreign Law: Introduction

A short and sweet introduction to understanding, researching, and keeping up-to-date with international, foreign, and comparative law topics.

The purpose of this guide is to give basic, introductory background information for those just beginning to research and understand international and foreign law. It includes a quick overview of the types of law contained within this broad categorization, ways to keep up with developments, and links to more specific research guides from Loyola and other helpful places. 

About the Author

For General Reference

For introductory information, use this book: Marci B. Hoffman & Robert C. Berring, International Legal Research in a Nutshell (2008). Just be cautious because it is already becoming a bit dated when it comes to electronic resources. The book discusses much of what we will cover here but in a much more in-depth manner. The book includes URLs and screenshots, some of which are already outdated. KZ1234 .H64 2008 (reserve).

For lists of resources (including URLs!) and more up-to-date information, use this book: George Wash. Int’l Law Review, Guide to International Legal Research (2015). The introduction provides an overview of sources of international law, including the traditional sources like conventions and customs, while introducing the influence of municipal courts and soft law. Chapters are arranged by geographic region – like South Asia and the Middle East – and by subject – like intellectual property and maritime law. Avaialble: Lexis Advance; KZ1234 .G85 (2015) (reference).

Note on Citations

Citations to international and foreign sources can be incredibly confusing. In the Bluebook, be sure to read the entirety of Rules 20 (Foreign Materials) and 21 (International Materials) in conjunction with their relevant tables in T1 and T2. You may also wish to consult N.Y. Univ. Sch. of Law Journal of Int’l Law & Politics, Guide to Foreign and International Legal Citations (2nd ed. 2009). K89 .G85 2009 (reference).

Common Abbreviations and Acronyms

Abbreviations and acronyms are abundant. For help deciphering (when you don’t find it on Google):  

  1. Cardiff Index to Legal Abbreviations. Allows you to search for legal publications by abbreviation or title. 
  2. The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation (Columbia Law Review Ass’n et al. eds., 20th ed. 2015) – especially important when it comes time for citations!
  3. Marci B. Hoffman & Robert C. Berring, International Legal Research in a Nutshell VII-X, 14-18 (2008). KZ1234 .H64 2008 (reserve).
  4. World Dictionary of Legal Abbreviations (2015). K89 .K38 1991 (reference). 
  5. Mary Miles Prince, Bieber's Dictionary of Legal Abbreviations (2009). KF246 .B46 2009 (reference).
  6. James R. Fox, Dictionary of International and Comparative Law (2003). KZ1161 .F69 2003 (reference).


Common Examples:

  • U.N.T.S. = United Nations Treaty Series
  • U.S.T. = United States Treaties and Other International Agreements
  • I.L.M. = International Legal Materials
  • ASIL = American Society of International Law
  • COE = Council of Europe
  • ECHR = European Convention on Human Rights
  • ECtHR - European Court of Human Rights, often noted as ECHR
  • ECJ = Court of Justice of the European Union a.k.a. European Court of Justice
  • ICJ = International Court of Justice


© Loyola University New Orleans Law Library. This guide may be used for educational purposes, as long as proper credit is given. This guide may not be sold. Requests to republish or adapt a guide should be directed to the Library Director. Proper credit includes the statement: Written by, or adapted from, Loyola University New Orleans Law Library (current as of November 8, 2015).