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Legal Research Skills Guide: R - Gather background information

Knowing where to start

Before you start your legal research, think about how much information you need. This will help you work out how much research you might need to do.

  • Is it a short answer question?
  • Is it a 2000 word assessment?

The second idea to consider is how you're going to search.

  • Which keywords will you use?
  • How will you put the keywords together?
  • Do you need to include any limitations like jurisdiction or year?
  • What type of resources do you need to answer your question?

Generally you'll start your legal research in a secondary source which will indicate the relevant primary sources you need to refer to. The Secondary Sources section of this guide will take you through the different types of resources you can use. The Case law and Legislation sections of the guide will take you through the primary sources you can access. You'll find more information on Search Tips in the Library Skills section of this guide.

Knowing when to stop!

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.