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Legal Research

First year legal research: getting started

This guide will introduce you to the essentials for getting started in Law at UOW.

More in-depth information on conducting legal research can be found under cases, legislation, secondary sources and International Law.

Best databases to find material for your assignments

Tutorials: getting started

This guide will help you:

  • put together an effective search
  • understand the structure of a case
  • understand the structure of an Act
  • reference correctly.

Develop a search strategy

The Interactive Keywords Builder helps you to analyse your topic or question and identify words and phrases to use in your search.

Effective searching

Take a look at this diagram and see what steps you need to follow to begin researching for your assignment.

Profile view of a stylised head with two gear inside it. Multi-coloured circles radiating from a central, red, circle. A stylised light bulb. Red, white and blue circles falling into a filter. A stylised profile of a person sitting at a computer.

1. Look at your assessment task or question 2. Connect your search words 3. Use search tricks 4. Improve your results 5. Practice searching

What are the main ideas?

What concepts or theories have you covered in your subject?

Write down your main ideas, synonyms, related words and phrases.

Use OR

"adolescent" OR "teenager"

They mean the same thing. This search will find both (or either) of the search words.


"adolescent" AND "physical activity"

These words represent the main ideas in the question. This will find results with both of the search words.


The asterisk symbol (*) helps you search for words with different endings.

teen* will find words like teen, teens, teenager and teenagers.

“ ... ”

Quotation marks (e.g. "physical activity") will find common phrases to make your results more relevant.

You can narrow your search results in databases by filtering the appropriate fields.

For example:

  • year (for up-to-date research)
  • type (e.g. article or book)
  • subject (for relevance)

1. Practice searching by using your own assessment question.

2. Our Search Word Generator will help you think of relevant words and phrases to use with AND or OR.

3. Take this 5-10 minute database searching tutorial for guided help with Library's SEARCH.

Structure of a Case

Cases follow a standard layout. Learn what the parts of a case are with these resources:

Structure of an Act (Legislation)

The structure of Acts within all Australian jurisdictions follow a common pattern.

Learn what the parts of an Act are with these resources:

AGLC referencing – the "why's" and "how's"


Refer to your Subject Outline or lecturer to confirm which version you should use.

First year students are expected to use the 4th edition and are encouraged to refer to their LLB 1115: Legal Skills activities in Weeks 2 to 5 for more information.

Why do we reference?

This is a derivative of the original work "Why do we reference?" by UTS Library, available under a CC BY-SA 4.0.

How do we reference?

AGLC 4: Ten Principles by UTS Library (2021) available under CC BY-SA 4.0 AU.

Law Collection

The Law Collection is on the Ground Floor of Wollongong Campus and contains a broad range of physical and online resources specifically tailored for UOW Law students.

Items in the collection include:

  • legal texts, primary law materials and journals, including legislation and law reports
  • 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

Our Law Collection uses the Moys Classification Scheme, which is very different from Dewey Decimal System used in the rest of the Library.

You can explore the collection via Library SEARCH by limiting the location to Law.

Law journals, reference and primary materials are not for loan.

Regional and metropolitan campuses borrowing from the Law Collection

Students at other campuses (e.g. South Western Sydney or Sydney Business School, UOW) can request print material from the Law Collection through the Intercampus Document Delivery service

Further help


Our Librarians can help you:

  • find resources online and on the shelves
  • refine your search strategies to help you search independently
  • find good quality, subject-specific resources.

Contact us online via Live Chat, over the phone, or in person. You can also search our frequently asked questions (FAQs).

Academic Skills Support

A one-stop-shop for academic skills support. Visit the Online Study Skills Resources page.

A peer academic coach (PAC) can help you:

  • understand your assessment task and use the Assignment Calculator 
  • find resources
  • use Turnitin
  • connect your mobile device
  • understand referencing
  • write academically
  • avoid plagiarism
  • enrol in workshops on academic writing, research skills and English language communication.


This Legal Research Guide is based on material from the following books. They are excellent resources for learning more about conducting legal research: