This is the "Home" page of the "Researching Treaties: Print & Online Resources" guide.
Alternate Page for Screenreader Users
Skip to Page Navigation
Skip to Page Content

Researching Treaties: Print & Online Resources   Tags: bilateral, index, interpretation, multilateral, travaux preparatoires, treaty  

Highlights resources available at/via the Tulane Law Library as well as on free, reliable websites. Coverage includes primary & secondary sources. Feel free to contact me whenever you need more help researching treaties.
Last Updated: Feb 11, 2017 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates
Home Print Page

Roy L. Sturgeon

Profile Image
Roy L. Sturgeon, Foreign, Comparative, & International Law/Reference Librarian
Logo - LinkedInLogo - Skype
Contact Info
Tulane University Law School
332 Weinmann Hall
6329 Freret St.
New Orleans, LA 70118-6231
Tel: +1 504.865.5953
Fax: +1 504.865.5917
Send Email

D. Indexes

Because full-text treaties are typically published chronologically instead of by subject in print sets like the United Nations Treaty Series, search these indexes to find citations to print sets (many of which are also available online) that have full-text treaties:


G. Citation Guides

For help in citing to treaties, see ALWD Guide (Rule 19, pp. 189–94), Bluebook (Rule 21.4, pp. 202–6), & Guide to Foreign & International Legal Citations (pp. 229–30).


A. Definition

A treaty is a negotiated instrument concluded between nations in written form & governed by international law. The origin of treaties goes back to the dawn of civilization 5,000 years ago. Today, treaties are the main source of international law & of creating peaceful cooperation among nations. Sometimes a treaty isn't called a "treaty" but an accord, agreement, charter, constitution, convention, covenant, declaration, final act, memorandum of understanding, pact, protocol, or statute. The term used to refer to a treaty usually has no legal significance in international law.


Bilateral Treaty Signing Ceremony

Then-US President Obama & then-Russian President Medvedev signed the New START treaty & its protocol, "an important milestone for nuclear security & non-proliferation, & for US-Russia relations," in Prague on April 8, 2010. Watch below:

E. Full-Text Sources

The following sources have full-text treaties:

  • Consolidated Treaty Series (Consol. T.S.)
    Unofficial source. Edited by Cambridge law prof Clive Parry. Has around 16,000 treaties from 1648 to 1920 in their original languages (& English or French translations, whenever possible). Most comprehensive collection for that time span.
  • Senate Treaty Documents (S. Treaty Doc.)
    Official US source since 1981 (succeeded Senate Executive Documents: 1778–1980). Has treaty text as submitted by President to Senate for ratification. Years 1995–present available freely online. Years 1981–2010 on HeinOnline.
  • Treaties & Other Int'l Acts Series (T.I.A.S.)
    Official US source since 1945. Preliminary series (like US Supreme Court "slip opinions"). Issued in separately paginated pamphlets. Eventually bound & published in UST below. Years 1996–present available freely online. Years 1982–2013 on HeinOnline. Law Library also owns in print (KZ235.32 .U55).
  • United Nations Treaty Series (U.N.T.S.)
    Published by UN Secretariat. Most comprehensive source for modern treaties. Has over 160,000 treaties submitted to UN by member nations since 1946 in original languages (& English & French translations, as appropriate). Available freely online. Years 1946–2010 on HeinOnline. Law Library also owns in print (KZ170 .T74) & microform (cabinets 32 & 38).
  • United States Treaties & Other Int'l Agreements (U.S.T.)
    Official US source since 1950 (succeeded Statutes at Large: 1778–1949). Each volume published after long delay of 20 years or more. Volumes 1-35 (1950–84) on HeinOnline. Search TIAS above for post-1984 treaties not yet published in UST. Law Library also owns in print (KZ235.3 .U55) & microform (cabinet 16).
  • World Legal Information Institute (WorldLII)
    Free, searchable database with full-text treaties from the Americas, Asia, & Europe. Coverage includes current as well as historical treaties. Pulls texts from or links to official (i.e., government) sources whenever possible.

F. Context, Context, Context

Background documents (aka travaux préparatoires in French) can help interpret & apply vague language in treaties. For help with US treaties, try:

1. Court decisions: Keyword search LexisNexis and/or Westlaw's federal caselaw database for the treaty name because neither Shepard's (online) nor KeyCite include citations to treaties. Shepard's Federal Statute Citations (print) includes citations to treaties, but the Law Library no longer gets updated volumes/supplements.

2. Legislative histories: Search HeinOnline (US Federal Legislative History Library spans 1789–present), (spans 1949–present), ProQuest Congressional (spans 1969–present), & Senate Foreign Relations Committee (spans 1949–present). Sometimes they will be already "compiled" for you (by commercial, for-profit companies like Hein & ProQuest), other times YOU will have to compile them by finding individual documents (in various places) that comprise histories like bill drafts, congressional debates, & committee hearings, reports, & prints.

For help with non-US treaties, run a keyword search for "travaux preparatoires" on the Law Library's online catalog to see what it owns in print &/or can access online. Add the treaty name (in quotation marks as well) to narrow the results. Also consider running the search on subscription databases & free search engines.

See Pratter's online research guide, Hoffman & Rumsey's coursebook (pp. 95–7 & 107–8), & Wiktor's book for more help with US & non-US treaties.


B. Types*

1. Bilateral treaty (between 2 nations) &

2. Multilateral/plurilateral treaty (between more than 2 nations)

* Also, those to which the US is a party (over 10,000!; see Treaties in Force) & those to which it is not (e.g., Kyoto Protocol, Law of the Sea Convention, Rome Statute)

C. "Must" Finds

1. The treaty's full text in an official print source if possible (see Bluebook Table 4, pp. 494–5);

2. Status & ratification information (i.e., is it still in force & with what nations?);

3. Reservations (i.e., exclusions, modifications) or declarations (i.e., clarifications); &

4. Background documents/travaux préparatoires (i.e., court decisions, legislative histories, commentaries) to help interpret its provisions



This information was published as a LibGuide by Roy L. Sturgeon in May 2013 for Tulane University Law School in Louisiana.


Give us feedback:

Was this information helpful?

How useful is this page?
(1 = Not Useful, 5 = Very Useful!)

Additional comments:

Your Email:


"Understanding the 'Other' International Agreements"


"Editing the Climate Talkers: Punctuation's Effect on Earth's Fate"


Loading  Loading...