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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.

How to research a case

The following steps show you how to do research on a case using the High Court case Maloney v Queensland [2013] HCA 28 as an example.

You are going to find:

  • the case
  • legislation discussed in the case
  • a treaty discussed in the case
  • journal articles on the topic related to the case
  • background material on the topic using encyclopaedias and books.

Step 1: Find the case

If you are looking for a recent High Court judgment, use AustLII. Select Advanced search -- All cases databases. Or use Jade search party name or browse judgements by court. 

Then use FirstPoint to check for an authorised version of the case in the Commonwealth Law Reports (CLR).  If the case is very new, it might not yet be in a CLR

FirstPoint also gives you a digest, which has information about the currency of a case, for example, whether the case has been overturned by a decision in a more recent case. The digest also lists cases referred to in the case you are researching. 

Search by Case name: Maloney v The Queen or 

Citation: [2013] HCA 28 

If there is a FirstPoint record for the case, this will give you a digest, which provides information about what documents were cited in the case. 

Also use CaseBase via Lexis Advance to check for a digest. The digests in FirstPoint and CaseBase can contain different information, so be thorough and check both citators.

Case name: Maloney v The Queen

Citation: [2013] HCA 28


Step 2: Find legislation discussed in the case

LawOne provides access to full-text legislation for all Australian jurisdictions. You can also search for bills, second reading speeches and explanatory memoranda.

Find the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth) s 10.

Commonwealth -- Acts -- Ra -- Racial Discrimination Act 1975

Select 10 Rights to Equality Before the Law

To find information on the purpose of the Act, find the second reading speech for the Racial Discrimination Bill 1974.

          From the Act record, select Details -- Enacted from -- Racial Discrimination Bill 1974 -- Additional Information and Bill -- 2R Speech Upper House  


Step 3: Find the treaty discussed in the case

United Nations Treaty Collection 

Art 5(a) of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination

Step 4: Find journal articles on topics related to the case

AGIS Plus Text

Search query: interpretation treaty "racial discrimination"

Westlaw AU

Free text search: liquor "human rights" /5 discrimination     (/5 = within 5 words)

LexisNexis AU

Search terms: Racial Discrimination Act 1975 w/5 10     ‚Äč(w/5 = within 5 words)


Advanced search -- All journals databases -- All of these words -- "racial discrimination act" and alcohol 

Step 5: Find background material on a legal topic using encyclopedias

The Laws of Australia

Chapter 1 - Aboriginies and Torres Stait Islanders

Free text search: racial discrimination alcohol

Halsbury's Laws of Australia

Sources -- Halsbury's Laws of Australia  

Search Terms: racial discrimination and alcohol

Step 6: Find background information on a legal topic using books

Use LibrarySearch to find texts by

      key word:

race discrimination law australia -- and Refine My Results -- books

      or title:

Australia. Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, An international comparison of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, 2008).

Justin Healy, Indigenous Australians and the law (Spinney Press, 2007).

Laksiri Jayasuriya, Transforming a 'white Australia' : issues of racism and immigration (SSS Publications, 2012).