Week 8: Legal Research Online (Introduction & Case Law)
This week was the first week of reading material from the second textbook for the course, which has a much more practical methodology to presenting the information. As it is intended to be a practical guide, it uses fictitious examples to demonstrate the methodology or thinking that is being explained.
In this week, the focus was on legal research. A methodology to approaching a legal research problem. General search tips that span across all the different online sources. And also how to evaluate websites to ensure that they are authoritative and reliable. In general, this section of the reading was rehashing prior knowledge from previous study and work where rigorous checks as to the validity of the sources being used were required, and a structured approach to the research method was required. What was new was (yet another) structured approach to the research process, but with a law focus. There was also a series of questions which you can ask yourself to work out how authoritative a website is (for legal use).
After this introductory material, the focus was on some of the different citation databases and online resources that could be used to find case law. There was also a step-by-step explanation three different methodologies to find case law. Depending on what stage of your research you are at, you might use all three, or if you already know what you are after, but just need to locate it, you might only use one! Once I had read through the three approaches, I found it more intuitive to put them in the opposite order, as for the topic approach, you can have the least amount of knowledge of the relevant case law and legislation, the judicial consideration of legislation requires you to know the legislation (which you might have identified in the topic approach), and then the known case approach is when you know the case.
While I found this week quite different in style to the material to date, I quite enjoyed reading through the material and getting to know some of the sites I had already been using a bit better. Add to that a few new sources, and I now have a workable understanding of how to approach a new legal research problem, and know a few places to get me started!