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Use this guide to access databases and websites important for legal research and guidance on locating law reports and unreported judgments, Acts of Parliament and delegated legislation, and secondary legal sources.

Why use legal dictionaries and encyclopedias?

Dictionaries and encyclopaedias are great to use to start your research. 

You can:

  • Define your topic using subject dictionaries
  • Find background information in encyclopaedias
  • Identify other keywords and alternative terms for database searching.

Legal Dictionaries

A selection of online dictionaries from Australia, Canada and the United States are linked below, but search the library catalogue to find many more print legal dictionaries from a variety of jurisdictions.

Black's Law Dictionary (United States) Black's Law Dictionary.
Current through the 11th edition (2019).
Butterworths Australian Legal Dictionary Electronic title known as Encyclopaedic Australian Legal Dictionary.
Oxford English Dictionary  A guide to the meaning, history, and pronunciation of 600,000 words— past and present—from across the English-speaking world.
Words and Phrases (United States)  Words and Phrases contains judicial definitions, from both state and federal courts, from both published and unpublished opinions. Cases analyzed from 1658 forward. Words and Phrases coverage begins in 1781.
Words and Phrases Canada  Words & Phrases is an editorially created product that provides to researchers who need to argue how language in contracts and other documents should be interpreted an alphabetical index of judicial interpretations of words and phrases drawn from over 100 years of Canadian case law.

Legal Encyclopedias

American Jurisprudence 2d  American Jurisprudence 2d is an encyclopedia containing over 400 separate titles on a broad range of legal topics.
Canadian Encyclopedic Digest  Canadian Encyclopedic Digest provides a comprehensive statement of the law of Ontario and the four western provinces - provincial, federal and common law - as derived from the case law and legislation.
Corpus Juris Secundum (United States)  Also known as CJS, this is another in-depth legal encyclopedia; it provides explanation of the law and annotations to related case law.
Encyclopedia of Forensic and Legal Medicine 2nd ed.  
Halsbury's Laws of Australia   
Halsbury's Laws of Canada   
Halsbury's Laws of England   
Max Planck Encyclopedia of Comparative Constitutional Law (Trial)

The Max Planck Encyclopedia of Comparative Constitutional Law (MPECCoL) provides analytical coverage of constitutional law topics in a comparative context. MPECCoL articles address a focused range of topics that provide the best coverage of the essence, character, development, and history of constitutional law from a global perspective.

Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law  The Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law (MPEPIL) is an online encyclopedia dealing with international law. 
The Laws of New Zealand The Laws of New Zealand (LONZ) is a legal encyclopaedia which covers all areas of the statute, case and regulatory law in New Zealand.
Restatements and Principles of the Law (United States)  The database contains the complete text of the Restatements and Principles of the Law, which includes various Tentative Drafts and Proposed Final Drafts, and Tentative Draft-related documents from The ALI Reporter. A document is a section of the Restatements or Principles.

Suggested print resources

Crime and Criminology Law Ref KM 695 - KM 706
Medical Law Law Ref KN 185
Torts Law Ref KB 100
International Law Law Ref KC 71 - KC 405
Human Rights Law Ref KC 200 - KC 217



For information on how to search legal dictionaries and encyclopedia please see our Legal Skills : Research Guide.