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Law: Case Law: How to find case law commentary

A Library Guide to support students of the University of Newcastle in finding Case Law.

Case law commentary resources

Secondary sources of law describe, summarise, explain, analyse or critique the law and are collectively referred to as legal commentary. They can assist in locating and understanding the relevant primary sources of law (case law and legislation) by often providing references to leading cases and key legislation on specific legal topics.

  • Examples: textbooks, case citators, statute annotators, legal dictionaries & encyclopaedias, journal articles and newspaper articles. 

Key Australian resources

Key international resources

The precedential value of a case must be checked or judicially considered. A subsequent case needs to be checked to see if it has been applied, approved, followed, considered, overturned, disapproved, not followed or distinguished in an earlier case.

  • Does the decision in the earlier case play a material role in the court's reasoning in the later case?
  • If so, then the earlier case has been 'judicially considered' in the later one.
  • Always check more than one source to ensure your research is comprehensive and thorough. 

Key Australian resources

Key international resources

Journal articles may provide more up-to-date information than contained in a book. Legal journal articles will identify recent developments in the law, and can provide a comprehensive overview or analysis of a specific area of law including any relevant commentary, case law or legislation on the topic. They are usually brief, concise and to the point.

To find journal articles you will need to search specific legal databases as well as Library Search. When you find a reference, copy the journal name (not the article title) into the Library Search box to see if the journal is held online or in print format.

Key Australian resources

Key international resources

Media resources are useful for legal research as legal issues and high profile cases regularly attract media attention. They are often discussed in media resources before they appear in law related databases.

  • Examples: the case involved someone famous or relates to a current legal topic of interest or set a legal precedent.

Key Australian resources

Finding legal definitions is a key part of legal research because:

  • It is important to distinguish between words defined in statutes and those defined in common law.
  • If there is no statutory definition of a word or phrase, you will need to check to see if it has received judicial consideration.
  • Identify cases to see if there has been any interpretation by the courts of the meaning of undefined words or phrases in legislation.

Key Australian resources

Key international resources

Under Australia's Constitution, the judiciary is independent from the other arms of government. The Constitution establishes the High Court of Australia and empowers parliament to create other federal courts. Each state and territory has its own laws and court system. Tribunals in Australia are generally administrative dispute resolution bodies other than the courts.

Key Australian courts and tribunals

Key international courts and tribunals

Key law eBook collections