Thesaurus of Law Genre/Form Terms

Thesaurus of Law Genre/Form Terms

Subject headings have traditionally been assigned to describe the content of the work. Genre/form terms, on the other hand, describe what an item is, not what it is about. The subject heading Famous Cases, with appropriate subdivisions, would be assigned to a book about famous cases. A cataloger assigning headings to the “Mississippi Burning”case would also use Famous Cases, but it would be a genre/form term since the case is famous case, not a case about famous cases.

Form/Genre Differences

Form is defined as a characteristic of works with a particular format and/or purpose. A “short” is a particular form, for example, as is “animation.” Genre refers to categories of works that are characterized by similar plots, themes, settings, situations, and characters. Examples of genres are westerns and thrillers.

Collaboration with the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL)

One of the goals of the Policy and Standards Division (PSD) of the Library of Congress collaborating with the library community, developing a genre/form Thesaurus that is useful for a wide variety of library types.

The Classification and Subject Cataloging Policy Advisory Working Group of the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) presented its draft thesaurus of just under 100 law genre/form terms to PSD in early fall, 2009, after which Library of Congress worked with AALL to modify some of the terminology, scope notes, etc.

The AALL’s Classification and Subject Cataloging Policy Advisory Working Group started developing a list of genre/form terms for law. The American Association of Law Libraries members developed a thesaurus of law genre/form terms The Policy and Standards Division (PSD) approved approximately 80 genre/form terms for law in November 2011 and implemented them in June 2011 into Library of Congress Genre/Form Terms for Library and Archival Materials (LCGFT).

From 2007 through 2009, members of the working group discussed the terms that should be included in the thesaurus and used a wiki to help organize the various phases of the project. Their starting point was William Benemann’s Genre terms for law materials: a thesaurus (Buffalo, N.Y.: William S. Hein, 2006). The working group decided to modify the style and wording of some of Benemann’s terms, remove others altogether, and add additional headings. The group also added many cross references and scope notes and reviewed the corresponding LC subject headings for possible harmonization of the two lists. In October 2009 the AALL Cataloging and Classification Committee approved the thesaurus and the working group presented it to PSD. Working group members and LC staff then worked together to ensure that each term fits into the structure of LCGFT.

AALL’s thesaurus also includes approximately twenty terms that are not specific to law. Instead, they represent genres and forms of general reference works that are heavily collected by law and other libraries (e.g., academic theses, dictionaries, and directories). PSD is continuing to examine these terms, including developing the syntactic relationships between and among them, and plans to add them to LCGFT within the next several months.

Example of a Term in the Thesaurus: Citators

Scope note: This heading is used as a genre/form heading for compiled lists of cases, statutes, and other legal sources showing the subsequent history and current precedential value of those sources.
1. Shepard’s United States citations
2. Halsbury’s statutory instruments citator
UF Citators, Legal
UF Legal citators
UF Noter-ups
BT Law materials

Law Genre/Form Terms Hierarchy

Note: Prepared by Yael Mandelstam (Updated February 2017)

Law materials

  • Administrative decisions
  • Administrative regulations
  • Attorneys general’s opinions
  • Bar journals
  • Casebooks
  • Citators
  • Claims
  • Codes (Jewish law)
  • Codices (Law)
  • Concordats
  • Consilia
  • Constitutional convention materials
  • Constitutions (includes
  • Court decisions and opinions
  • Court rules
  • Courtroom art
  • Customary laws (includes Coutumes, Custumals and Rechtsbücher)
  • Dockets
  • Executive orders
  • Hornbooks (Law)
  • Indulgences (Canon law)
  • Intergovernmental agreements
  • Judicial statistics
  • Jury instructions
  • Law commentaries
  • Law digests
  • Law for laypersons
  • Law reviews
  • Legal forms
  • Legal Instruments (see below)
  • Legal maxims
  • Legislative histories (including Legislative bills)
  • Legislative materials (includingnLegislative bills and Legislative hearings)
  • Loose-leaf services
  • Medieval Town laws
  • Military regulations
  • Model acts
  • Official gazettes
  • Orders in council
  • Privileges and immunities
  • Proclamations (including Royal ordinances)
  • Records and briefs
  • Repertories (Law)
  • Resolutions (Law)
  • Responsa (Jewish law)
  • Restatements of the law
  • Statutes and codes (including Municipal ordinances and Session laws)
  • Travaux préparatoires (Treaties)
  • Treaties
  • Trial and arbitral proceedings
  • Uniform laws
  • Year books (English law reports)

In relation to Legal Instruments

  • Affidavits
  • By-laws
  • Charters and articles of incorporation
  • Legal Instruments (cont.)
  • Commercial arbitration agreements
  • Contracts (including Collective labor agreements and Deeds)
  • Cooperative agreements
  • Legal memorandums
  • Legal petitions (including Remonstrances)
  • Patents
  • Wills
  • Writs

Genre/Form for Legal Materials in the Encyclopedia of Law Thesaurus

This list of genre/form legal terms is designed to facilitate selection of form and genre terms in the Encyclopedia of Law. It contains primarily those terms most frequently used in indexing our entries and collections. While most terms listed enhance research and reference access to our collections, some terms are included to enhance access to collections for curatorial and management purposes. The Thesaurus for Legal Materias of the Encyclopedia of Law is a tool for indexing visual materials by subject and by genre/format. The thesaurus includes more than 8,000 subject terms and 120 genre/format terms to index the Encyclopedia of Law and other legal materials. The subject and genre/format vocabularies, previously maintained separately, were merged into a single list.

This list is not exhaustive, nor is it intended to be exclusive. Readers should consult the micro thesauri and from which this list is derived, if additional terms are desired. This list will be updated on a periodic basis, as needed.

Readers also may consult the thesauri referenced in this list for full information on definition and usage of terms. Scope Notes and cross-references included in this list provide additional guidance in practice, and clarify the definition of terms where it is lacking in the thesauri.

Genres and forms terms in the Library of Congress

Unlike some other systems, which always make a distinction between genres and forms terms in the Library of Congress (LC) often combine the two. The terms are based on literary warrant (the existence of a body of works representative of the genres and forms) and standard terminology (the terminology used in literature about the genres and forms). Thus, in the term Famous Cases films, “famousr” is the genre and “cases” is the form.

In the LC, the genre/form thesaurus is separate and has been entitled Library of Congress Genre/Form Terms for Library and Archival Materials, or LCGFT.

How to found all of the approved genre/form terms in a particular discipline in the LC?

Users can follow the hierarchies to discover terms most appropriate for their interests. For example, a user searching Wildlife films can also follow the broader terms to retrieve Nature films, Science films, Educational films, Documentary films, and Nonfiction films, respectively. The broadest term for each discipline is a generic phrase representing the discipline. Currently, the broadest terms are Cartographic materials, Law materials, Motion pictures, Radio programs, Television programs, and Video recordings. By searching one of these terms users can follow the narrower terms to find all of the headings in the discipline.

All announcements, discussion papers, and decisions arising from the discussion papers, as well as other links and documents, are available on PSD’s genre/form web site,,

See Also



References and Further Reading

About the Author/s and Reviewer/s

Author: international

Mentioned in these Entries

Cataloging for legal materials, Classification of Law Materials, Comparison of Library of Congress and Dewey classifications about Law, Law library, Moys Classification and Thesaurus for Legal Materials, Thesaurus.



, ,