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Research tips

Bond University Library has created the Core Information Skills mini-course. This free mini course provides a foundation for finding, storing and using information at university. It is suitable for anyone new or returning to tertiary study, and is a Beyond Bond approved activity.

Research tips

These tips are designed for general research. They are not specific to legal research, but a lot of the tips and thought processes are useful when searching for secondary sources.

Where to begin?

Rather than pasting your whole assignment question into a search box, read your question/briefing carefully and identify any key terms or concepts. Think of any synonyms or similar words that may be used to describe the same thing. Now think of what type of evidence, information or research you are looking for, and this may give you ideas of other terms to add to your search, and also where to search.


You can expand or narrow your search results by using connectors (or operators) to form a relationship between your search terms.

AND - connects your terms together. You will only retrieve results that contain ALL of your terms

OR - expands your results. You will retrieve results that contain ANY of your terms

NOT - excludes terms from your results. You will not retrieve any results that contain the word/s you have excluded

More search operators

(brackets OR parentheses) - brackets groups terms together, particularly useful for grouping synonyms in an OR search

"quotation marks" - put terms in double quotation marks to search for the words as an exact phrase

Example search using connectors


(plagiarism OR "academic misconduct") AND "admission to practice"


You can use a database or search engine's 'advanced' search options to bring up the AND, OR and NOT connectors, and to choose which field is being searched for your terms. A regular or 'basic' search will search for your terms across any/all fields, but in an advanced search you can specify to only search fields such as 'title', 'author', 'subject' or 'abstract'.

Many databases also contain extra search or filter options. Look for the 'Help' section available on most databases, often found on the top right of the page, to explore any other search features, tips and help guides.

Proximity connectors

Databases such as Lexis+ and Westlaw Australia contain proximity connectors. More powerful than using AND, proximity connectors allow you to define how close terms are to each other. Some of the common proximity connectors are:

/s - use to find terms within the same sentence (within approximately 25 words of each other).

/p - use to find terms within the same paragraph (within approximately 75 words of each other).

/n - use to find terms within a specified number of words, where 'n' is a number of your choosing. For example - admission /10 practice - would only retrieve results where the term 'admission' is within 10 words of the term 'practice'.

Proximity connectors are not used on all databases, and some may use variations. Look into a database's or search engine's 'advanced' search or 'help' options to check what options are available, or to explore any other search features, tips and help guides.


In most academic search engines and databases you can refine your results by options such as:

  • Content type, e.g. books, peer-reviewed journal articles, newspaper articles, commentaries, cases.
  • Date range
  • Topic/subject

You may also choose to read the abstract, summary, or the first page or two, to help decide which sources are relevant and which may not be the best for your particular research topic.


Once you find a resource, how do you know if it is useful for the research you are conducting? The CRAP test is a set of 4 criteria you can quickly measure a resource against to see whether it is worth engaging with further.


Is this the most up to date resource you can find? Is it new enough for the purposes of your topic?


Is the material relevant to your topic and your arguments?


Who is the author? Are they a credible source? Are they qualified to talk about this subject? Are arguments backed up with evidence (such as references or citations)?


What is the purpose of the resource? E.g. Is it designed to sell, entertain, vent, educate, present research?

The best way to evaluate a source is to read (or watch) it in full. This can take time, but there is no better way to fully understand a source than taking the time to go through it properly.

However, if you take the time to apply the skills, tips and techniques discussed on this page, it should help provide you with a "shortlist" of relevant results to read through.


It is important to acknowledge the work of others in your assignments or research. You do this by citing (or referencing).

Citing shows the reader the quality of resources you used to build and support your arguments. It provides a way for the reader to locate the resources you referred to. Citing also clearly shows the reader how and where you’ve drawn on other people’s words, ideas and research. Clearly citing your resources helps avoid plagiarism.

The good news is, the more academic or scholarly your resource or search platform is, the easier it will be to cite.

The library produces guides on each of the Bond supported styles. These guides go through the rules for things like in-text citations and quotations, how to cite different types of resources in your reference list or bibliography, and how to format your reference list/bibliography. The primary citation style used for law at Bond is the Australian Guide to legal Citation, commonly referred to as the AGLC. Check out our Australian Guide to legal Citation library research guide.


When you find a resource, it's a good idea to keep it somewhere so that you can refer to it again if needed. If you use a reference management tool such as ZoteroMendeleyRefWorks or EndNote, not only can you save the citation, but you can add a PDF document of an article, or a web link directly to the resource. You can also save resources in Library Search by using the pin button. 'Pinning' a resource adds it to your 'My Collection', so that you can go back and access the resource if required. Particularly useful for last-minute reference quote checking!

Law: secondary sources