Treaty Research II: Finding the Citation

November 1, 2012

Over the past few weeks we have received dozens of requests for finding treaties. Here are a few examples of knowing the name of a treaty, but having difficulty finding official print copies of them.  There are many treaties available online, and while they are useful for research, you cannot often cite to them in law review articles.  

To find an official copy, you first need to find a citation.

1. The “WTO treaty.”  First, use Google to find the proper name of the treaty.  In this case, the formal name is the Agreement Establishing the World Trade Organization.  Then search for this treaty in the Electronic Information System for International Law website (, a database of materials, websites, and online guides regarding international law, put out by the American Society of International Law.  This is one of the best places to come to get a citation--to get it, you don't click on the name of the treaty (which brings you to an online version).  Instead you click on “more information” and you will get the legal citation “1867 UNTS 154” referring you to the treaty in the United Nations Treaty Series.  A parallel citation to the International Legal Material series “33 ILM 1144 (1994)” is also given.  ILM is accepted by Bluebook if you cannot find an official version of the treaty.  You can go to the hallway between 1L and UES to get the UNTS in print, or if you want to use the UNTS online, go to HeinOnline, click “login” and scroll down to the “United Nations Law Collection.”  Under “Finding Aids,” click on “Enter a United Nations Treaty Series Citation,” then enter volume 1867 page 154 to see the relevant page.  As I wrote earlier, navigating the UNTS website can be challenging and the files very large to load.

2. A double income tax treaty between the US and Austria.  To find an official version of this treaty from 1956, go to the TIAS series index in the F&I Reading Room and look for treaties between the US and another party.  Look under "Austria" and you will find:

You will get a TIAS (Treaties and Other International Acts Series) number (TIAS 3923) which can be located here:  Alternatively, you can try to locate the treaty in Kavass's Guide to the United States Treaties in Force, which gives a numerical list of TIAS treaties as well as many others.  However, if the 1956 treaty between Austria and the US had expired, was superseded, or for any other reason was no longer "in force," you would not be able to locate the treaty using this guide.

3. The Treaty of Frankfurt. Again, start by searching for it in Google. You will find that there a few treaties are under this name, and in this case, we are after the 1871 treaty.  We then encounter two issues: 1) the US is not a party (which means it won't be published in something like the statutes at large), and 2) the treaty predates the traditional treaty collection bodies (i.e. the League of Nations and the United Nations had not been formed yet).  In this situation, the best place to look is in the Consolidated Treaty Series.        

These were just a few examples of the variety of sources and tools that can be used to locate treaties for  source cites.  As always, my office is open for any additional questions.




Published In: