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Secondary Sources for Law

A guide to help you locate and use secondary sources for Australian legal research.

Why use journal articles?

Journal articles can provide up to date, in-depth, authoritative analysis of legal topics. If you are investigating a very specific point within an area of law, only journal articles may be available.

For a list of Journal Article databases recommended for law, visit the Research Databases - by Type page on the Law Library website.


Scholarly vs Professional Journals

Scholarly / Academic Journals

Professional / Trade Journals

Journals articles offer a high academic standard as they are reviewed by academics in the field (a process known as peer-review). These are journals that are targeted towards practitioners working in that profession or trade. The articles often contain jargon specific to the profession.
Well researched articles can give more credibility to your research. Can be an excellent source of information on a topic you are unfamiliar with.
Articles published in scholarly journals often explore very specific topics in great detail. Professional journals are often published more frequently, so may contain articles on recent changes to legislation or case notes.

Indexes vs Full Text


Full Text

Contain bibliographic information such as title, author, publication, as well as abstract and subject headings for each article. However, indexes do not always link to full text copies of articles. Great to use if you have specific facts you are looking for that would not necessarily fall under a subject heading. 
Indexes aggregate information from a large number of journals (often print and online journals). If you have already searched an index, you can then use the full text database to locate the articles (for example HeinOnline or Westlaw databases).
Excellent place to start researching journal articles as you can search by subject area or key word across a large range of publications  Examples include Informit, Lexis+ Australia, and Westlaw Australia.
Examples include Index to Legal Periodicals, AGIS Plus Text, LegalTrac, and Australian Legal Journals Index (via Westlaw Australia).  

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