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Public International Law

A guide to resources for public international law research, created by John Bolan, Bora Laskin Law Library

What is Public International Law?


Public international law is chiefly concerned with the relationships between national governments and intergovernmental organizations.  It has no formal constitutional structure, no central organization, and no centralized law making authority. This has significant consequences for research, because the absence of an overall law-creating body means that international law must be identified through a wide variety of sources.

Getting Started

Welcome international law researchers!

This guide is designed to aid your research in public international law. Use the tabs above to access relevant databases, periodicals, books, Internet sites, and lists of resources. 

A note on this guide: The identification of the sources of international law is part of the practice and the theory of international law, and is itself complex and somewhat contentious. Accordingly, this guide is intended as a basic introduction to the topic in order to highlight the most commonly used and authoritative sources and material.

Research Strategy

  1. Start with secondary sources such as a treatise or an encyclopedia of international law to familiarize yourself with the topic, then;
  2. Use the information and citations gained from those sources to move onto primary sources. 

TIP: Follow the tabs (above) for a step-by-step pathway through the international law research process.