Secondary Sources

Secondary Sources include books, magazines, journals and newspapers which contain articles discussing various laws, regulations and various related issues.  Why use them?  Secondary Sources often:

  • Are the best place to start your research
  • Provide terminology
  • Are easier to find
  • Give a feel or overview of the event or issue, and often supply dates, names and other background information, such as the names and citations of statutes and court cases
  • May refer to related subjects or issues
  • Are more readable than many primary sources
  • Digest or synthesize the information found in primary sources


Some reference encyclopedias you may want to consider browsing through to get a feel for your topic, more definitions, and other important background information include:

Gale Encyclopedia of American Law, 3rd edition, (14 v.), 2011

Encyclopedia of Communication and Information – Ref. P87 .5 .E53 2002.  Also available online.

Museum of Broadcast Communications: Encyclopedia of Television – Ref. PN 1992 .I8 M874 1997

Museum of Broadcast Communications: Encyclopedia of Radio – Ref. TK 6544 .M84 2004

Note:  All of these encyclopedias are secondary sources, but they may lead you to primary sources such as Acts of Congress and other laws, federal regulations, court cases and other government documents (congressional hearings, etc.)


Find Secondary Sources using the following suggested databases: (others may also work, too )

  • National Newspapers Premier  or Newspaper Source Plus
  • Communication and Mass Media Complete
  • Academic Search Complete
  • ABI/Inform Global
  • Penfield Library Catalog or Worldwide Catalog (to locate books, reference books)


Communication and Mass Media Complete, Academic Search Complete and ABI/Inform Global are examples of journal databases, and will provide access to both popular press and scholarly journal articles.  To view only scholarly articles in these databases, be sure to select the “Scholarly/Peer Reviewed Journals” limiter on the search page.

Primary Sources

Primary sources defined

Primary sources provide first-hand, original information. Primary sources may include, but are not limited to laws and legislation, Acts of Congress, court cases, rules and regulations, government documents (such as congressional hearings), etc.

  • Statutes: including Statutes at Large (laws passed by Congress) and United States Code (Annotated)(denoted as USC or USCA. A codification of the laws/statutes by subject, with an index). Online via the HeinOnline database, or on the U.S. House of Representatives website at United States Code.
  • Regulations: including Federal Register (rules and regulations passed by federal regulatory agencies – published daily) and Code of Federal Regulations (denoted as CFR) (a codification of the rules and regulations from the Federal Register)
  • Congressional Record (a daily record of what’s said and debated on the floor of Congress – sort of, kind of, maybe. It can be revised by request of a Congressperson). Found online via the Government Information page.
  • Court Cases (available in paper copy or online via HeinOnline)
  • Catalog (for government documents, including congressional hearings)
  • FCC web site (
  • Constitution of the United States

Find primary sources

What are Primary Sources?