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Legal skills - Research

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

What are secondary sources?


Secondary sources are a good way to start your legal research. They describe, discuss and analyse primary sources of law. Examples of secondary sources include journal articles, books or commentaries. Links to various secondary sources are included below.


Parliamentary materials are also a major source of secondary legal information. Parliamentary materials includes second reading speeches, explanatory memoranda and parliamentary reports. Links to parliamentary materials can be found under the How do I find legislation tab to the left.

What does this abbreviation mean?

When doing legal research you will come across various abbreviations e.g. 

In the case, Breen v Williams (1996) 186 CLR 71, the abbreviation CLR indicates the "Commonwealth Law Reports".

In a journal article cited as Gaffney, Thomas F, 'Borrowed Manners: Court Etiquette and the Modern Lawyer' (2012) 86 ALJ 842,  you will find ALJ means the Australian Law Journal.

There are a number of resources that can assist you interpret legal abbreviations, below are a few:


Where do I find definitions of legal terms?


Legal dictionaries provide definitions, alternate search terms and links to key cases. We have online dictionaries from Australia, Canada and the United States linked below.

Encyclopedic Australian Legal Dictionary Also known as the Butterworths Australian Legal Dictionary.
Black's Law Dictionary (United States)  Available via Thomson Reuters Westlaw.
Oxford English Dictionary 
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States)  Words and Phrases contains judicial definitions, from both state and federal courts, from both published and unpublished opinions.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. 
Available via Thomson Reuters Westlaw.
Words and Phrases (Canada Includes Judicial interpretations of words and phrases drawn from over 100 years of Canadian case law.
Available via Thomson Reuters Westlaw
You can also search the library catalogue to find the many print legal dictionaries from a variety of jurisdictions.


How do I find books on my topic?


Print collections

Print books can be located via the Library catalogue:

Or you can search the Classic Catalogue


eBook Collections

Below you will find links to our law ebook collections:

Need help using the ebook platforms?  The ebook subject guide will assist with finding and reading UTAS ebooks.


Where can I find a legal encyclopedia summarising my topic?


Legal encyclopedias are a comprehensive set of articles on legal topics. We have a range of print encyclopedias at the Law Library.  Below are links to our online encyclopedias.

Halsbury's Laws of Australia Available via Lexis Advance
American Jurisprudence 2d  Available via Thomson Reuters Westlaw
Corpus Juris Secundum (United States)  Available via Thomson Reuters Westlaw
Restatements and Principles of the Law (United States) Available via Thomson Reuters Westlaw
Halsbury's Laws of Canada  Available via LexisNexis International
Canadian Encyclopedic Digest   
Halsbury's Laws of England   Available via LexisNexis International
The Laws of New Zealand  
Encyclopedia of Forensic and Legal Medicine 2nd ed.   


What are some good online resources?

You will also find quality resources freely available online, here are a few of our recommendations:


You can link Google Scholar to the University of Tasmania Library catalogue by selecting 'Library Links' under 'Settings', and manually adding University of Tasmania Library.


How do I find journal articles on my topic?


The Library holds journals in print and electronic format. Below are databases that provide access to full text legal journal articles: 

AGIS Plus Text (Attorney-General's Information Service Plus Text) Part of the "Informit" suite of databases. AustLII  Free internet access to Australasian legal materials.

Business Source Ultimate 

Full text scholarly and trade journals in Business, with many accounting and tax journals. Contains Accounting Review, Corporate Governance, Journal of Accounting Research. Cambridge Journals  Academic journals published by Cambridge Core.

Criminal Justice Abstracts with Full Text 

Criminal Justice Abstracts with Full Text contains records selected from the most important journals and magazines related to criminal justice and criminology. Unique content. HeinOnline  American scholarly law journals, with some content from selected Commonwealth countries.
JSTOR  Multi-disciplinary archive of scholarly material in the social sciences, humanities and the sciences. It includes the full text archival backfile of over 1,000 journals, monographs, newspapers and selected conference proceedings. Collection of digital images.

Lexis Advance Pacific

(formerly LexisNexis AU) 

Provides online access to Australian legal materials published by LexisNexis.
Lexis Advance (formerly LexisNexis International) LexisNexis International contains a comprehensive collection of full text legal resources including both primary and secondary material from the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia and other jurisdictions. Oxford Journals Online [OUP]  Academic Journals published by Oxford Academic.

Thomson Reuters Westlaw 

US and foreign primary and secondary legal materials.

Westlaw AU 

Australian case law, commentaries and journals.
Westlaw UK  UK Journal and other legal materials. Wiley Online Library  Multidisciplinary collection of online resources covering life, health and physical sciences, social science, and the humanities. It delivers seamless integrated access to over 6 million articles from over 1500 journals, over 19,000 online books, and hundreds of reference works, laboratory protocols and databases.


What are journal indexes and how can they help me?

Some databases index journal articles, searching an index will give you a comprehensive list of results, to locate the full text of the relevant articles you will need to search in the library collection or speak to a librarian.

AGIS Plus Text (Attorney-General's Information Service Plus Text)  Indexing & full text database that provides access to journal articles on all aspects of Australian law. The majority are from Australia, NZ & Pacific law journals but there are selected articles from major law journals from the US, Canada & the UK.
Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals  Subject index to selected international and comparative law periodicals and collections of essays.
Index to Legal Periodicals & Books This database provides complete coverage of the most important English language legal information. Coverage includes the United States, Canada, Great Britain, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand from 1982 +
Legal Journals Index  Accessed via Thomson Reuters Westlaw, Legal Journal Index indexes articles from legal journals published in the United Kingdom and Europe as well as journals covering topics pertaining to the laws of the European Community and its Member States. Database Identifier LJI
Legal Resource Index (aka LegalTrac) Indexes over 800 legal periodicals from United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand by subject or keyword 1977 +


How do I find Newspaper articles on my topic?

The following databases hold newspaper articles:

ANZ Reference Centre Plus  Online Australian Newspapers
Newspaper Source Plus 

Newspaper Source Plus provides a full-text digital collection of the world's major news content. It includes millions of articles from newspapers, newswires and news magazines. In addition, it offers television and radio transcripts and ongoing daily updates from popular news sources.

Australia and New Zealand Newsstream ProQuest product 
Academic Search Ultimate The most comprehensive multidisciplinary database for academic institutions, providing thousands of full-text, peer-reviewed journals to support scholarly research in key areas of study as well as newspaper articles.
Thomson Reuters Westlaw Thomson Reuters Westlaw: Go to the News link within Westlaw for Australian and International Newspapers. Search within the fulltext articles, letters and columns.
Times Digital Archive  The Times Digital Archive has millions of articles from the London Times. The entire newspaper is captured, with all articles, advertisements and illustrations/photos divided into categories to facilitate searching.
17th and 18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers  Newspapers, pamphlets, and books gathered by the Reverend Charles Burney (1757-1817) represent the largest and most comprehensive collection of early English news media.
19th Century British Library Newspapers  The collection contains full runs of 48 newspapers specially selected by the British Library to best represent nineteenth century Britain.
Trove  Created by the National Library of Australia. Contains Australian and online resources: books, images, historic newspapers, maps, music, archives and more.

Are there non-law databases with legal materials? 


Sometimes your topic may be inter-disciplinary and you need to locate materials that overlap with law and other topics.  These databases may have materials that are relevant to your research:

AFPD - Australian Federal Police Digest  Covers policing, criminology, law enforcement, law, management, occupational health and safety, and social sciences and is produced by the Australian Federal Police Library, Canberra. 
1991 +
APA-FT (Australian Public Affairs- Full-text)  Indexing and full text database of journal articles on social sciences and humanities. Source documents include a wide range of periodicals, newspapers, scholarly journals, conference papers and books.
AUSSTATS (Australian Bureau of Statistics)  National statistical service covering new releases each month, products, services, and information. As well as providing financial and economical statistics, the ABS has a strong interest in broader social indicators.
CINCH (Australian Criminology Database) 

Covers all aspects of crime and criminal justice including corrections, crime, crime prevention, criminal law, criminology, juvenile justice, law enforcement, police and victims of crime and is produced by the JV Barry Library, Australian Institute of Criminology. 

1968 +

Family & Society Collection (Informit)  Covers family, marriage, women; culture and institutions, private, civil and family law; social services and public welfare. Content includes peer-reviewed journals from government and specialist associations tackling modern debates on topics including non-traditional families, parenting, marriage, divorce, division of labour, working mothers, birth rates and ageing.
SNIPER - Searchable Networked Intellectual Property Electronic Resource  SNIPER provides information relating to IP Australia's core business areas, namely patents, trade marks and designs. SNIPER also includes other topics that impact on IP Australia's business, especially related intellectual property matters such as copyright, plant breeder's rights and domain names. These related matters are included if they relate to significant Australian or international trends and developments, or if they are significant to the field of intellectual property as a whole.
2000 +