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Introduction to Legal Research

This guide is an introduction to legal research at the University of Melbourne. This guide is intended for law students in the JD, MLM , Breadth programs who are new to legal research. Students in other disciplines who may need to conduct legal research

Finding Books

After you have gained a general understanding of the relevant terms for your topic by searching legal dictionaries and encyclopaedias, textbooks can provide more comprehensive background or discussion on your topic. When commencing research, a text book in the field is always useful. Use the library catalogue to find textbooks. 

From the library catalogue homepage you can do a basic search using a range of fields such as keyword, author, title or subject.  You can also refine by collection, for example, Law Library or Online Books. Note when you choose a physical collection such as Law Library, you are limiting your search to printed books only. 

This module provides an overview of the library catalogue's advanced search features, browsing for books on a topic, and finding ebooks.  

After reviewing the content on this page, test your knowledge using the quiz at the end of this page.  

Library Catalogue - Advanced Search

Advanced search allows you to create a targeted search using specific fields where you can connect keywords and limit your search in a range of ways. Watch the following video for a demonstration of the library catalogue’s advanced keyword search:

Browsing the Library Catalogue

Subject Browsing 

Find books on a similar topic by browsing the topics in the subject section of the catalouge record. When you've found a relevant book in the catalogue scroll down to the field subject. You will see a list of subject classifications relevant to the book. These are links which will take you to other books in the library catalogue on the same topic. 

Call number browsing

The catalogue record for a book provides a call number. You need this to find the book on the shelf. The call numbers are links and you can click on these to find books located in a similar section on the shelf. 

Watch this short video for a demonstration of subject and call number browsing: 


You can find eBooks in the library catalogue by refining your search to 'Online Books'. However, sometimes newly published eBooks appear on the publisher’s eBook platform before they appear in the library catalogue. If you cannot find a newly published book in our catalogue, try searching the eBook platforms, by selecting 'E Books' from the Law Library website Research Databases by Type page. 

Tip: Searching an eBook platform will generally allow you to also search for your term(s) as they appear in the full text. This type of full text searching is not available in the library catalogue.  

These eBook platforms function differently and contain different content. Our Law eBooks research guide explains the different eBook platforms in terms of coverage and usability.