Here are my thoughts on overcoming the common problems I see with Legal Research!
Common problem: I think I know the answer to the problem but I can’t find the information to support my position.
Step 1: Change the way you tackle a problem. Do the research first and then let the research answer the question. You would be surprised how much your view can change after doing the research.
Common problem: Where do I start researching?
Step 2: Start than with the resources available at your university.
Your university website should contain not only resources but also classes you can take to improve your research skills. Make time to sift through the resources, attend a library tour/class on research and watch YouTubes. Why not book in with a session with an expert at your library and follow their tips or book in with a tutor here at Australian Law Tutor.
Common problem: Should I use Google search or Google scholar?
Step 3: Whilst legal databases contain excellent resources you might want to google search a topic as well. Sometimes is a faster way of finding a specific document.
Common problem: Should I use a legal dictionary?
Step 4: It is also a good idea to look up general terms in a legal dictionary. I find this practice super useful. You can find dictionaries on law databases. For example, think Halsbury’s Law of Australia.
Common problem: Where can I find up to date innovative research?
Step 5: Try official government websites, law firms and law agencies
Recently government websites and websites of large firms summarise the law in different fields. These resources are very easily accessible via the internet and smartphones. Try legal aid websites and community legal centres websites sources of legal information.
You can also read resources from other Australian Universities if they are publically available.
Common problem: Should I follow research principles?
Step 6: Three research principles include
Relevant: Use material relevant to the topic.
Recent: Look at the most recent primary sources of law (legislation and common law) and journal articles. Use a data base search covering the last 2 years only and see what you can find.
Variety: Use examples from as many different resources as possible. This makes research more interesting. Start with a basic text book commentary. Consider YouTubes, reputable social media sites and newspaper articles for recent examples.
Common problem: How much attention should I pay to instructions?
Step 7: Don’t forget to follow assignment instructions carefully. They may or may not require you to research set areas. This is key- follow the instructions, criteria rubrics to the specific question carefully. This may contain rules on research.
Be positive and Learn to love to research as an inquiry. Remember the most you do the more LIKELY you will enjoy the topic!