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Law: secondary sources

This guide will assist you in identifying and searching secondary sources of law.

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.

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.

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 also to be able 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'.

Refine

In academic search engines like Library Search, ProQuest or EBSCO you can refine your results by options such as:

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

Evaluate

Once you find a resource, how do you know if it is useful for the research you are conducting? You could read/watch/listen to it, but you could save time by first testing the resource against the CRAP test. 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.

Currency

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

Relevance

Is the material relevant to your topic and your arguments?

Authority

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)?

Purpose

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

Cite

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.

Keep

If you find a good 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 MendeleyRefWorks 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!

Putting it all together

Video has no audio but contains subtitles on screen to guide you through.