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Legal Research Methods

This guide provides access to major Australian legal resources. It also provides tips on searching for different types of legal resources.

Case Databases

FirstPoint on Westlaw AU 

Start here to find judgments of the High Court and Federal Court.

Get Commonwealth Law Reports (CLR), Federal Court Reports (FCR) and Victorian Reports (VR)

Watch this video

Video: Finding a high court case - includes captions

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CaseBase on LexisNexis AU  

Start here to find judgments of the Victorian Supreme Court.

Get Australian Law Reports (ALR) and more.

CCH Collections Find case reports on a range of business law subjects.  

AustLII Get the latest unreported judgments of courts and tribunals. Go to Advanced search -- All cases databases.

Jade  (Judgments and Decisions Enhanced) is a free current awareness service that collects recent decisions of selected Australian Courts and Tribunals.  Jade will grant full licences for no charge to all students.  Jade's Case Trace is a citator feature that appears on the right of the page of every case in Jade - it includes links to the full text of cases your case has cited and to cases which have cited your case - and pinpoints the relevant paragraph in the citing cases.

 

Find an Australian case

When you have the case name or citation: Mabo v Queensland (No 2) (1992) 175 CLR 1 

Use a case citator.  A case citator is an index of cases and provides complete citatation details for a case as well as a digest, or summary, of a case. Case citators link to the full text of case reports subscribed to by RMIT Library.  The two Australian case citators are CaseBase and FirstPoint.

  • Search for the case name Mabo v Queensland or citation 175 CLR 1.  

On a legal topic: the criminal defence of provocation

  • Search FirstPoint -- Free Text search: criminal defence provocation 
  • Search CaseBase -- Search Terms: criminal and defence and provocation 

Before you begin...

Case Law refers to the decisions made by judges in courts and tribunals.

Law Reports are the published decisions of the courts. Not all case decisions are reported.

Authorised Reports are the official law reports reviewed by judges. Catriona Cook, Laying Down the Law (LexisNexis Butterworths, 9th ed, 2014), has a list of Australian authorised reports. Where an authorised report extists, cite the authorised report in preference to an unauthorised report. Example reference for an authorised report: Mabo v Queensland (No 2) (1992) 175 CLR 1.

Unauthorised Reports do not go through the review process by the courts. 

For example: decisions of the High Court of Australia are reported in the Commonwealth Law Reports (CLR), the Australian Law Journal Reports and the Australian Law Reports. Where there is no authorised report, cite to an unauthorised report.  Example reference for an unauthorised report: Mabo v Queensland (No 2) (1992) 107 ALR 1.

Note: At RMIT, if there is no authorised report for a High Court case, go to LexisNexisAU to get the Australian Law Reports. 

Unreported Judgments are decisions of courts that have not been commercially published in law reports. Unreported judgments are available on AustLII or Jade soon after the decision is made. Where there is no authorised or unauthorised report, cite to the unreported judgment. Example reference for an unreported judgment: Mabo v Queensland (No 2) [1992] HCA 23. 

Which case report should be cited?

The publication of cases varies and often one case will be published in more than one report.

For example, Mabo v Queensland (No 2) is published in an authroised report (175 CLR 1), an unathorised report (107 ALR 1) and an unreported judgment ([1992] HCA 23).

Also, a High Court case might be too recent to be published in the authorised Commonwealth Law Reports but might be published in an unauthorised report such as the Australian Law Reports and as an unreported judgment. 

Cite a case in this order of preference:

1. authorised report,

2. unauthorised report,

3. unreported judgment.