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Travaux Préparatoires: Travaux Préparatoires Research Short-Cuts

Find the negotiating/drafting history of a Treaty

Step 1: Basic Search for Compiled/Collected travaux préparatoires.

Do a general Web search to check to see if there is already a compiled or collected travaux préparatoires.Yale Law School maintains a list of Collected travaux préparatoires

It's important to be aware that there the UN hosts some travaux préparatoires websites for particular agreements.

Step 2: Check References in Secondary Sources

If no collected travaux préparatoires is available, try a Secondary Source.

Search for a guide to the travaux préparatoires that you are looking for. 

  • Sometimes, there will be a guide " that tracks the agreement article-by-article, with references to the relevant places in the travaux préparatoires where each article (or the text that preceded it) is discussed" (Pratter 2015).
  • If you find such a thing, it will save you lots of time, but guides like this are rare.

Alternately, another good type of secondary source to start with would be an "article-by-article commentary on a particular agreement" (Pratter 2015).

  • Commentaries generally will have references to the travaux préparatoires.
  • You can use these citations to find the specific documents of interest.



Step 3:Commercial or quasi-commercial compilation and publication of travaux préparatoires.

Search all three of the catalogs (WorldCat, Library Catalog & Library Catalog) using as keywords the title of the treaty or agreement (in quotes) and the keywords "travaux préparatoires"

Example of a commercial publication of travaux préparatoires.

Step 4: Published series of conference records

Search for travaux préparatoires collected under one title.

Sometimes,  intergovernmental organizations such as the Hague Conference or UNIDROIT will publish in one series travaux préparatoires  for all  international instruments that these organizations have drafted.


Step 5: Records of Conference during which a specific treaty was negotiated

Search for treaty-specific conference records

Instead of searching for the name of the treaty and the keywords "travaux préparatoires" as you did in Step 3, try searching the three catalogs for:

keywords: "formal name of conference during which the text of the agreement was negotiated" AND keywords "travaux préparatoires

Note that these sources are not necessarily comprehensive.

If you are looking for  "travaux préparatoires" for a recent treaty, you may find it on the official website for the conference.

Next steps

If you are unable to find the documents you need already compiled, you may need to go to the website for the International Organization that drafted the treaty.