Skip to main content

Legal skills - Research

This guide is designed to help you locate, evaluate and update relevant legal information.

Welcome to the Legal Research Guide

 

This guide is designed to help you find and evaluate legal information.

 

Below are some resources to help you get started.  On the left you will find links to legal resources and useful information. 

 

Understanding the Australian legal system is key to effective legal research.  This guide has videos on how the Australian parliament creates laws and how courts interpret and develop laws.
 

 

(Video courtesy of Latrobe University.)

 

There are two distinct types of legal information

 

Primary sources of law

Primary sources of law are laws made by parliament or cases decided in the courts of law. 

 

Secondary sources of law

Secondary sources of law are materials that explain or discuss the primary sources of law. Examples include legal encyclopedias, case citators, case digests, text books, specialist commentary services and journal articles.

Where do I start?

Legal research can be daunting. By following the steps listed in yellow below you can become effective at legal research.  

 

Research strategy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Image courtesy of University of Queensland Library, 2017)

Legal Research Tutorial

Below is an excellent online tutorial produced by the University of Queensland Law Library.  We recommend that you attempt the online tutorial as a way to sharpen your legal research skills. 

 

  Secondary Sources : Module 2 looks at secondary sources                                                                                                                     

 

    Case law : Module 3 will help you understand and locate case law, including case citators                                                                                                                                                                                                        

 

    Legislation : Module 4 helps you to locate current and historical legislation                                                                                                                                                                              

(Courtesy of the University of Queensland Library, 2017)


 

What is a Boolean search? 

A Boolean search is a type of search allowing users to combine keywords with operators (or modifiers) such as AND, NOT and OR to further produce more relevant results.

AND is inclusive and limits your search. For example you can search "puppy" AND "kitten" to obtain materials that have both terms.

OR usually broadens your search results. For example you can search "puppy" OR "kitten" to obtain all materials that include either one or both of the terms. 

NOT will exclude specific search terms and so the query will not return any results with that term (or terms) in them. If you search "puppy" NOT "kitten" you will retrieve all the materials that have puppy but no materials that have both kitten and puppy. 

 

Image result for What is a boolean search?

(Image from www.onalaskaschools.com/tech/boolean-search-tools)