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University of Newcastle Library Guides

Law: Case Law: Getting started

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

Case law

What is case law?

  • Case law is a primary source of law.
  • It is the recorded and published decision of judges.

Cases: reported or unreported?

  • All decisions of the courts start as unreported judgments.
  • The vast majority of cases will remain unreported.
  • However, when a case is deemed significant it is reported and published in a law report series

What is a case citator?

  • Summarises reported cases.
  • Shows the correct citation of a case including its medium neutral citation.
  • Shows if a case has been reported in more than one law report series.
  • Shows the earlier cases a case has considered.
  • Shows if a case has been considered in later cases.

Key Australian case citators

Key international case citators

The legal research process

  • Analyse the problem
    • Identify the key facts.
    • Determine the legal issues.
    • Document the research process as you go‚Äč.
  • Gather background information
    • Secondary sources of law provide information about the law.
    • They often provide the key case law and legislation on the topic.
    • Use textbooks, legal dictionaries, legal encyclopaedias, journal articles.
  • Locate the key case law and legislation
    • The primary sources of law are the authoritative sources of law made by the courts and Parliament.
  • Evaluate each resource using the following criteria: 
    • Currency: when was the information published? Is it up to date?
    • Relevance: does the information relate to your topic?
    • Authority: who wrote the information? Is it an authoritative source?
    • Accuracy: is it fact, opinion or propaganda?
    • Purpose: does the information inform, teach, sell, entertain or persuade?
  • Update the law
    • Ensure your information is current and that the authoritative sources of law are still ‘good’ law.
  • Apply the law
    • Apply the law to the facts of your scenario.
  • Cite your references
    •  The UON Law School uses the AGLC4 referencing style.

Want to see a related Guide? Click on the image below

Law: Legislation

Find legislative resources.

Law: Secondary Sources

Find secondary sources for law


This guide provides undergraduates and graduates with specific resources for Criminology