Treaties can be referred to by a number of different names: international conventions, international agreements, covenants, final acts, charters, protocols, pacts, accords, and constitutions for international organizations. Usually these different names have no legal significance in international law. Treaties may be bilateral (two parties) or multilateral (between several parties) and a treaty is usually only binding on the parties to the agreement. An agreement "enters into force" when the terms for entry into force as specified in the agreement are met. Bilateral treaties usually enter into force when both parties agree to be bound as of a certain date. For more information on treaties, see Thomas Buergenthal, Public International Law in a Nutshell (3rd ed., St Paul, MN: West, 2002).
For a list of frequently-cited treaties and their citations, see the Law Library's guide, Frequently-Cited Treaties and Other International Instruments. If you need to research the history of a treaty, see Jonathan Pratter's guide, À la Recherche des Travaux Préparatoires: An Approach to Researching the Drafting History of International Agreements.
The researcher usually faces three issues when researching treaties:
locating the full-text of the treaty;
determining the status of the treaty (is it in force); and
locating current information on signatories, ratifications, and reservations.