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University of Newcastle Library guides

Law: Secondary Sources: Dictionaries & encyclopaedias

Find secondary sources for law

Meanings of words and phrases

Why find legal definitions? 

  • 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, 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.

Legal dictionaries

  • Use to search for the meaning of legal words or phrases.
  • Legal dictionaries identify relevant terms in a particular area of law, and locate words and phrases judicially considered in legislation or case law. 

Legal encyclopaedias 

  • Good starting point to find find primary sources on a legal topic.
  • Provide an overview of the key legal principles, the historical background and relevant cases and legislation.
  • Check both the Laws of Australia and Halsbury's Laws of Australia as one encyclopaedia may cover a topic more thoroughly than the other and may be more up to date.

Key Australian resources

Key international resources

Key Australian resources

Search for a legal word or phrase to find references to cases that have judicially considered it.

Key international resources

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

Law: Case Law

Find legal resources on case law.

Law: Legislation

Find legislative resources.


This guide provides undergraduates and graduates with specific resources for Criminology