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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

Case Citation - Reported Cases 

Each reported case has a unique citation which identifies the law report in which the case has been published. There are well-established rules and conventions about how cases are cited. The following elements are necessary for the full citation of reported cases according to the 4th edition of the Australian Guide to Legal Citation (AGLC4), Rules 2.1 & 2.2. 

Important things to note about a case citation:

  • Square brackets are used when the year is necessary for identification of the correct volume of the law report.  Example: Bowditch v McEwan [2003] 2 Qd R 615
  • Round brackets are used when the reference to the year is not necessary to identify the volume of the report.  Example: Rogers v Whitaker (1992) 175 CLR 479

Why is this important?

If you see a citation with a square bracket, you will need to include the year when searching for the case by citation.  If the year is in round brackets, you do not need the year to find the case using online databases.  

Case Citation - Unreported Cases

The rules for citing unreported judgments are found in AGLC 4 Rule 2.3. 

There are two types of unreported judgments: those with a medium neutral citation and those without a medium neutral citation.  

A medium (or media) neutral citation is a citation assigned to a case by the court, and does not include reference to a law report series.   For example:

When would you cite a case using the medium neutral citation?

If a case was recently decided and has not yet been reported in in a law report series, then cite the medium neutral citation.  Some cases are never published in a law report series, but are available via the court website or AustLII.  In those instances, you can also cite to the medium neutral citation.

For more information about citing cases, check the Australian Guide to Legal Citation (AGLC) - Chapter 2

Parallel Citations 

Sometimes a case is reported in more than one law report.  You may come across a citation that looks like this:

Rogers v Whitaker (1992) 175 CLR 479; (1992) 109 ALR 625; (1992) 67 ALJR 47; (1992) Aust Torts Reports 81-189

This is known as a parallel citation.  It means that this case was important enough to be reported in multiple law reports.

For the example above, the Rogers v Whitaker case was reported in the Commonwealth Law Report (CLR), Australian Law Report (ALR), Australian Law Journal Report (ALJR), and Australian Torts Reports (Aust Torts Reports).  

Note: AGLC only requires you to include the citation from the most authoritative report series. Do not include parallel citations (Rule 2.2.7).