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Law Search Guide: Build a search strategy

This guide will show you how to search a law topic using quick and simple methods.

Build a search strategy

To start your search think about what you will need to find, use the Search Strategy document below to start the planning and view the steps in each tab for a quick way of organising your search. 

Understand your assignment task, look at your:

  • The assignment question/task/topic
  • The objectives of your unit
  • The marking criteria/rubric for your assignment

Consider:

  • What are your task words/direction words (verbs that indicate what you have to do)?
  • What are your topic words/subject words (usually nouns that highlight the issues that you need to discuss)?
  • What are you limiting words like time, jurisdiction, and area of law, where is the focus?

What other words can be used in place of your topic words? Explain the topic in your own words. What words do you use? Use the Australian Law Dictionary or Australian Legal Words and Phrases to find out if a word has been defined in the law. 

Use your topic, your task, topic and limiting words and ask questions of your topic:

  • Who?
  • What?
  • When?
  • Where?
  • Why?
  • How?

This will give you a better understanding of your topic.It will also help you to get an idea of how you might want to structure your assignment.

Consider brainstorming with another student or a group of students.

Write your ideas on a piece of paper, map your ideas, use a brainstorming app.

Now that you have developed a good understanding of your topic and have found keywords it is time to search CDU Library through Library Search.

  • Use double quotation marks ("...") to search for a search term that consists of multiple words.
    • Example: "youth crime"
  • Use truncation to substitute possible endings of words with the symbol *.
    • Example: Australi* - you will find information containing words like Australia, Australian, Australians, etc. 
  • Use the Boolean operators AND, OR and NOT to narrow or broaden your search.
    • Example:
    • youth AND crime - you will find information containing both search terms.
    • youth OR child - you will find information containing either or both search terms.
    • crime NOT rehabilitation - you will find information on crime, but not on rehabilitation.

Library Search-  The main Library search box, this search tool will find hard copy books, eBooks, newspapers, and many journals

Databases-  A searchable collection of journals and other material, often databases have a subject speciality, for example, Lexis Advance is used for Law. 

What are primary or secondary source in law?

Primary Sources-  They contain the original or direct evidence of the law. 

Secondary Sources-  They contain a discussion of the law and can point you to the primary sources of law. 

It is important to know the difference between primary and secondary sources of information as they require different search techniques to find. 

Primary

Secondary

Cases, Legislation

Books, Legal Encyclopedia, Journal Articles, Commentary 

 

Keyword and Boolean searching

Keywords-  The main words that describe the topic you are looking for.  

Boolean-  A way of linking your keywords to help explain how they work together. 

Watch this short video on picking out keywords. Build on using keywords but using Boolean in the next tab of this box. 

Boolean Searching is a logic-based system that is used for online databases. See the document below that will explain how using Boolean can help you use your keywords to the maximum.  

Watch this quick video on using Boolean:

Library Search and Databases

Library Search-  The main Library search box, this search tool will find hard copy books, eBooks, newspapers, and many journals

Databases-  A searchable collection of journals and other material, often databases have a subject speciality, for example, Lexis Advance is used for Law. 

Research Skills Quiz

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