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Legal Research Skills Guide: Legal Encyclopedias

Legal encylopedias

Legal encyclopedias summarise aspects of the law, giving you an overview and point to important legislation and cases (primary resources). Remember encyclopedias are generally only a place to start, not to complete your research.

You might use an encyclopedia to find:

  • Information on a topic you know little about
  • Some basic principles, relevant cases, legislation and possibly some leads to further research
  • A succinct statement of the law in a particular area
  • An overview; rather than in depth treatment of a subject area;
  • An easy to understand descriptive approach to a legal subject
  • Coverage of all Australian jurisdictions. This can be very useful for locating legislation across different States

Using legal encyclopedias

We subscribe to the two Australian legal encyclopedias

The two encyclopedias differ in coverage and it is worth looking at both resources.

There are two ways to find information in legal encyclopedias:

  • Keyword searching - shows you where the results sit in the encyclopedia, helping you to identify the particular area of law you are searching in
  • Browsing - allows you to see the topics that surround your issue in that particular area of law.

Activity #7 - Legal encyclopedias