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HCS221 & HCS532 Research Skills Guide: Case Law & Legislation

Locate key case law and legislation

Primary sources of law are the authoritative sources of law as made by law making bodies. They include:

  • Case Law - the decisions made by the courts which can both establish and refine legislative law. Case Law is also known as Common Law or Judge-made Law, cases, court decisions, judgments or judicial decisions
  • Legislation - is the largest source of law in Australia and forms the basis of the Australian Legal System. includes Acts of Parliament (or Statutes) and subordinate or delegated legislation (such as regulations). 

How do I know which cases to read?
Cases which are referred to by your lecturer, those that keep appearing in secondary resources that are 'seminal' and where a passage from a certain judge is frequently repeated.

Reading and understanding case law and legislation is a skill that takes time to develop. Remember secondary sources such as journal articles and textbooks can help you develop your understanding of the law.

How do I know when to stop researching?
Sometimes it can be difficult to know when to stop researching and start writing. Here are some guidelines to help you know when it is time to stop

  • The commentary is becoming repetitive
  • You have read the same point in a number of different sources.
  • You notice that the same cases and articles keep appearing
  • You are already familiar with the issues
  • You have updated the primary authority. This should be the last step. 

Case Law

Elements of a case citation

Finding a Case from a Citation

Use an abbreviations guide to find out the full title of law the report series:

Then search for the law report series in Primo Search.  If the Library subscribes to the report series, follow the link to view online and navigate to the correct volume.

Finding Legislation from a citation

1. Determine the jurisdiction - indicated at the end of the citation in brackets.  For example, Mental Health Act 2007 (NSW) is an Act from the NSW Parliament.

2. Find the legislation online - go to the database for the relevant jurisdiction (See Australian Legislation by Jurisdiction below). There will be options to browse by legislation type, such as Bill, Act, Delegated Legislation and so on.

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