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Research support for Law PhD students

This guide will help law PhD and MPhil students to begin their legal research using the University Library's resources

Setting up for success

Where to begin?

The Research Cycle is a tool which has been developed by the University of Melbourne to help guide you throughout your research process. 


Developing a search strategy

When planning your search strategy it's important to:

  • Read and understand the research questions
  • Identify key concepts, themes, and keywords/synonyms, and
  • Think about scope, coverage and currency

Finding a topic

One of the most important yet challenging aspects of beginning a theses is selecting an appropriate topic.  When selecting a topic, make sure that it is interesting to you and your audience, well-defined, manageable, novel and worthy of publication. If you need help finding a research topic, you can start by:

  • Examining legal developments
  • Searching for a novel case or a legal issue where courts have split on their interpretation of the law
  • Browsing recent scholarly publications
  • Mining topic ideas, including calls for papers and writing competitions
  • Talking to people
  • Keeping up-to-date with current affairs, e.g. news items can generate topic ideas

Creating alerts

Setting up email or RSS alerts will allow you to keep up to date with the latest developments on your topic in legal scholarship, legislation, case law and across interdisciplinary databases.

Law resource alerts

Westlaw AU - Preferences and personalisation - Set up alerts in your broad areas of interest or for specific titles, eg, journals such as Family Law Review, or reports such as the Commonwealth Law Reports.

Lexis Advance Pacific - How do I create an Alert? - Learn how to schedule Lexis Advance Pacific to automatically repeat a topic search and notify you at specific intervals.

New High Court judgments - Subscription available Alerts - Set up alerts for the High Court Australia Bulletin, case summaries and judgment notifications or summaries.

General resource alerts

Alerts can be created to stay up-to-date with current research relevant to your topic. Alerts notify you by e-mail or RSS feed of new records that are added to a database that match search terms you have specified.

Theses and dissertations

Looking at Theses and dissertations is often a really great place to get started. See the information below to find out how to locate University of Melbourne, Australian and International Theses and dissertations.

University of Melbourne hard-copy theses are not available for loan. Instead they can be read in the Reading Room in the Baillieu Library. Requests for theses can be made online prior to visiting the reading room. To request material, please register and order here.

Increasingly, theses are freely available online: To search the collection either search the Library catalogue and click on the link 'connect to thesis' or search the Institutional Repository.

The Thesis Whisperer is a blog dedicated to the topic of doing a thesis and is edited by Dr Inger Mewburn, Director of Research Training at the Australian National University.

The Academic Board Policy for Research Higher Degree Thesis Examination mandates that a digital copy of a completed higher degree thesis must be submitted to the University of Melbourne Institutional Repository (Minerva Access). The thesis must be deposited prior to award of the degree.

Detailed information on the policy is at My thesis in the Library

All University of Melbourne graduate researchers are required to include an ORCID on the title page of their thesis. See Preparation of Graduate Research Theses Rules.


Useful library links

The Law Library homepage The Law Library homepage is the gateway for resources you need for legal research including legal databases, research tools, research guides and classes
The Library Catalogue Use the library catalogue to search for library collections, including books, journals, and databases.
Law Databases Find main law databases listed alphabetically, by a type, a subject or a jurisdiction.
Law Library Research Workshops Join a class for Zotero or legal research workshops.
Borrow, Renew and Return The policies for borrowing, returning and placing a hold on a book.
BONUS+ Books You have access to 14 university libraries in Australia and New Zealand when using BONUS+ service.
Borrowing from Other Libraries
  • Reciprocal borrowing from Victorian universities (CAVAL)
  • University Libraries of Australia and New Zealand (ULANZ)
  • Inter-Library Loans
Legal Academic Skills Centre The Legal Academic Skills Centre is the hub for student support and resources relating to legal writing, legal research and study skills
Success at MLS Melbourne Law School's hub for academic skills, legal writing, exams and more!

Opportunities for collaboration, funding and networking.

The Melbourne Law School encourages collaboration on projects with industry, international and cross-disciplinary partnerships to promote research impact and engagement and translate research into practice.



Is a database that links to information about research funding, publication records, clinical trials, patents, researcher profiles - on an international scale.

Altmetric Explorer Is a database that allows you to track and view engagement with your research outputs.
Research Professional Is an online database of research funding opportunities, as well as a list of potential collaborators who are interested in applying for specific funding opportunities.

What is a Literature Review?

A Literature Review

  • investigates and appraises material that has been written on a particular topic

  • can serve as a framework for an ensuing study or piece of research, such as a thesis

  • raises questions and identifies areas to be explored.

Systematic Reviews
Systematic reviews in Law are not that common however they may come more of a focus in doctrinal research.


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