Looking for legal information

This resource on will describe how to find and use information in the discipline of law.

What kinds of legal information might I need to find?

Legal information comes in several forms including:

  • Cases
  • Legislation
  • Bills and Hansards (including first and second reading speeches, parliamentary debates etc.)
  • Journal articles and commentary

Where can I find legal information?

Online sources

The best way to find many types of legal information is online via our selection of legal databases. The Library's Law Guide is your best friend here. It has a detailed listing of which databases are appropriate for finding each type of information (e.g. for Australian cases try Westlaw, or for legislation try Lexis Advance Pacific Research), as well as information about specific areas of legal research, legal terms and abbreviations, and legal citation information. Some databases may feel more comfortable than others for you, but keep in mind that the different databases might have different content, including differing law report series for cases.

Legal databases

When searching on legal databases, many of the techniques used when searching for non-legal information are still relevant, such as identifying effective keywords and refining your search.

You can search legal databases by using keywords, searching for a particular type of legal content or by browsing subject categories.

In addition to the common ways of refining your search used for searching for non-legal information, you can also refine a search for legal information using the following categories:

  • Judgement date
  • Presiding judge
  • Jurisdiction
  • Court
  • Legal journal of publication
  • References to or citations of particular cases or legislation
  • By type of Law Report (i.e. authorized, specialist or unreported judgements)

When it comes to evaluating the suitability or usefulness of a source again you can use many of the techniques used for evaluating sources that are non-legal. In addition, if the source you are using is a case, many databases will use a symbol to signify if a particular case has negative, cautionary, neutral or positive treatment in subsequent decisions. You can find a guide to the different symbols used by each legal database in the help section inside that database, or the site may explain the symbol if you hover your mouse over it.

Physical sources

For physical items, the Wollongong campus has a dedicated Law collection which holds a range of physical and online resources, specifically tailored for UOW law students.
Items held in the collection include:

  • Legal texts, primary law materials and journals, including legislation and law reports (online)
  • A comprehensive collection of all Australian states and territories legislation and law reports
  • Material from the U.K., New Zealand, Canada and U.S. legal systems (online)


The collection is findable via SEARCH, limiting the location to Law. Law journals, reference and primary materials are not for loan.

Note: The Law Library uses the Moys Classification Scheme; a different scheme from the main collection.

Tips for success

Follow these steps when searching for legal information:

  1. Identify the type of information needed (e.g. case, legislation etc.)
  2. Use the Law Guide to determine the most suitable online search tool, or use Library SEARCH if looking for a hard copy in the library.
  3. Refine your search until you have the information that you need.
  4. Evaluate your sources before use.

Further resources