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The Legal Research Process: Legal Research Process

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Australian Guide to Legal Citation (AGLC)

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Law Unit Research Guides.: legal resources by subject.

Legal Research

Effective legal research requires you to look at secondary and extrinsic sources such as text books, journals, commentary, and parliamentary debates, as well as primary legal materials.

Primary legal materials are the documents which contain the written records of the law - legislation and cases.

Secondary legal materials are those materials which are about the law - discussing, explaining or analysing the law - and include:

  • reference tools which help find the law (dictionaries, encyclopaedias, guides and directories)

  • books, journals and commentaries which discuss the law

  • extrinsic materials - documents, defined within a jurisdiction's Interpretation Act, which can be used in court to interpret the meaning and intent of legislation.  These include Parliamentary debates (Hansard), explanatory memoranda and Law Reform documents.

When presented with a hypothetical legal problem,
first use the IRAC method for analysis:





Conduct your legal research for sourcing the Rules and relevant law, and their Application.


Use a graphic organiser (mind map or flow chart) to arrange your thoughts, such as MindMeister

Use the Assignment Planner to make a schedule to complete your paper, and a task list generator such as To-do, or Trello, if you have a group assignment.

Use the interactive resources on the Academic Skills Unit on LMS to improve your academic reading, critical thinking, research, writing and presentation skills.

Use learning tools, such as Quizlet, to organise your course work and notes in preparation for your research.


For guidance on how to develop a good search strategy and technique see:

Researching your assignment topic

Use the Research Strategy Template to organise your legal research.

1.  Read a legal encyclopaedia, or journal article, to mine for search terms

2.  Find synonyms for the search terms

3.  Create search strings for searching databases - use Boolean connectors

4.  Follow the Five Steps to Legal Research

5.  Record all resources, including quotations and their page numbers

TIP: Ensure your reference complies with the Australian Guide to Legal Citation rules when you first access the resource - don't leave your referencing to the last minute.  See the Legal Citation Guide for easy citation.


Why learn Legal Writing?

Legal writing skills will enable you to use different products to articulate your message:
essays, reports, legal submissions, video clips, blogs, tweets, Snapchat stories, wiki articles.

It is your professional responsibility to be able to present or display your message online and in print.

Create your search strings

Enter your research question

The Five Steps of Legal Research

For more information on each of these steps take a look at the Legal Research Process page.