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United Nations

UN legal research, researching United Nations, research guide UN

About This Guide

This research guide provides an introduction to UN research, with an emphasis on sources available at the University of Minnesota.


The Law Library has a basic collection of United Nations documents, and the Wilson Government Publications Library (basement of Wilson Library) is a full United Nations depository.  Beginning in about 1996, the UN began making documents available on the internet. The UN offers an online document service, ODS. This database includes documents back to 1993, with older documents being added.  Some types of older documents, such as resolutions, are available on the internet back to the UN's founding.

Documents issued by subsidiary bodies within the UN (e.g., UNICEF, the World Health Organization, UNESCO) can be more difficult to find on paper or on the web.

The United Nations replaced the League of Nations in 1945. The United Nations Charter was signed on June 26, 1945 at San Francisco (3 Bevans 1153, UN Yearbook). The United Nations is composed of six principal organs: the General Assembly, the Security Council, the Economic and Social Council, the Trusteeship Council, the International Court of Justice, and the Secretariat.

Other Guides

Research guides and bibliographies can provide good information for the person starting UN research. Listed below are a few sources which deal with the UN specifically, but which may also be helpful for research on other intergovernmental organizations. See MNCAT for other guides or bibliographies under the subjects united nations--bibliography or international organization--bibliography.

United Nations Documentation: Research Guide This guide was prepared by the UN Dag Hammarskjöld Library.

Guide to International Legal Research. Reserve KZ 1234 .G85, updated yearly.

United Nations Scholars Workstation at Yale University.The United Nations Scholars' Workstation, developed by the Yale University Library and the Social Science Statistical Laboratory, is a collection of texts, finding aids, data sets, maps, and pointers to print and electronic information. Subject coverage includes disarmament, economic and social development, environment, human rights, international relations, international trade, peacekeeping, and population and demography.

ASIL Guide to Electronic Resources for International Law: United Nations. A very good research guide on electronic sources for the UN.

Basic Sources:


Yearbook of the United Nations. Detailed history for one year. Includes full text of key resolutions and gives useful references to important reports and documents. (JZ4947.U55x).  Also online.



C. Parry, Parry and Grant Encyclopaedic Dictionary of International Law. Short articles on international law, including treaties and international organizations. Also available in print Reserve KZ1161.P37x 2009.



E. Osmancyzk, Encyclopedia of the United Nations and International Relations. Brief explanations of terms related to the United Nations as well as international law and economics. Provides full text of some documents plus full citations to documents. (Most current on Reserve and earlier edition in Reference Office JX1977 .O8213 1990).



About the United Nations  Introduction to the structure and work of the UN.


Database Access Note: access to certain databases linked to in this guide may be restricted to members affiliated with the U of M Law School or the U of M Twin Cities campus. Please see our Databases Directory for further information on access privileges.

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