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University of Newcastle Library guides

Law: Secondary Sources: Getting started

Find secondary sources for law

Getting started

What are secondary sources of law?

  • Secondary sources of law describe, summarise, explain, analyse or critique the law and are collectively referred to as legal commentary.
  • Assist in locating and understanding the relevant primary sources of law (legislation and case law) by often providing references to key legislation and leading cases 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 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: Case Law

Find legal resources on case law.

Law: Legislation

Find legislative resources.


This guide provides undergraduates and graduates with specific resources for Criminology