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Legal skills - Research

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

How do I evaluate legal materials?

 

Once you have located relevant materials it is necessary to check the following:

  • Are my secondary sources scholarly and current? 

  • Are my secondary sources peer reviewed?

  • Do I have authorised versions of  cases?

  • Do I have checked the authoritative versions of legislation?

 

The previous sections on case law and legislation assist you to the information you locate is up to date and still 'good law'.

This section is designed to assist you evaluate the results of your legal research and ensure you have authoritative versions of cases and statutes. 

Is it scholarly? 

 

Many students only use the internet to find assignment materials.

The internet might be quick, but you have to check:

  • Is the author credible?
  • Is the web page is accurate and reliable?
  • What is the objective of the site and is it even current?

Did you know that you get better scholarly resources for your assignment by using the library search tools. You can access hundreds of databases from the library website.

If you are not sure about something that you found online, then you have to double check facts or details by using a reliable source such as a legal encyclopaedia [eg. Halsbury’s Laws of Australia] which can be a time waster.

Tip: If you search Google Scholar, link it to the University of Tasmania Library catalogue, that way you can connect directly to the University version of the article.

Is it peer reviewed?

We recommend that you try to use peer-reviewed journals to ensure the quality of the materials you locate. Peer reviewed (refereed or scholarly) journals publish articles that are written by experts and are reviewed by several other experts in the field.

There are different ways to find out if a particular journal is peer reviewed (refereed):

  • If you're searching for articles in certain databases, you can limit your search to peer-reviewed sources simply by selecting a tab or checking a box on the search screen.
  • If you're looking at the journal itself, look at the editorial statement or instructions to authors (usually in the first few pages of the journal or at the end) for references to the peer-review process.
  • Another way is to look up the journal in Ulrichsweb.com to find out whether the journal is peer reviewed. If Ulrichsweb says the journal is "refereed", it's peer reviewed.

What citation is best? 

 

All Australian jurisdictions have a set of official or 'that have been given official approval by the judiciary (Council of Law Reporting). These are referred to as 'authorised' law reports. Whether citing such cases in your assignment or using in court, it is important to always use the authorised citation of the case where possible. 

You can check whether you have the authorised version by looking through our list of Authorised Reports.

 

                                               

 

In Australia, the following citation convention applies (refer to AGL4 Rule 2.2.2 and 2.2.3):
if the case is reported in an authorised report series, this version must be used.
 
if the case is reported, but not in an authorised series, the unauthorised report series should be cited in the following order of preference:
1. generalist report series such as ALR (Australian Law Reports); ALJR (Australian Law Journal Reports)
2. specialist report series such as A Crim R (Australian Criminal Law Reports); ATR (Australian Taxation Reports)
 
If the case is only unreported, the order of preference is:
1. the medium neutral citation assigned by the Court eg: [2009] HCA 23; or if the case has no medium neutral citation the citation convention used in AGLC4
2. the number assigned by eg: LexisNexisAu which assigns a BC number eg: BC200905831
3. the AustLII version.

 

Is it authorative?

Online compilations of Commonwealth legislation are authoritative and can be used in legal proceedings, as outlined in the Evidence Amendment Act (Cth). An authoritative online compilation from the Federal Register of Legislation will always be in Adobe Acrobat (PDF) format and will display the symbol  .

In Tasmania, the online compilation of an act is not recognised as authoritative. Paper reprints are the official authorised version of Tasmanian legislation, and it is this version which should be taken to court. Up to date paper statutes are held the law  library of Tasmania.