Week 9: Legal Research – Legislation and Commentary
While both this week and last week have had moments of déjà vu due to revisiting material that I did in weeks 1 & 2 of Statutory Interpretation (oh so far away now!), it was still very interesting to find out that there were in fact sources for some on the information that I thought was lacking in legal research. As a result of this week’s reading, my opinion of the resources available for legal research has improved slightly, but I still believe there are some serious omissions in access to key points of information.
Finding legislation is (relatively) easy… do a Google search if you can’t be bothered going any further. But there are better tools out there such as AustLII, BarNet Jade, Westlaw and LexisNexisAU. I particularly like the first two, as they are within my budget as a poor university student – that is to say – free! The latter two services are both very comprehensive with case law, legislation, journal articles and commentary. Thankfully the university provides ‘free’ access to them for students. So once you choose a search tool (or three) to use, finding case law or legislation is as easy as getting your search terms right (if they have the information you’re after in their database). Finding out some other essential details can be tricky, and change from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. For example, when a new piece of legislation reaches assent. Or when it commences. What amendments have been made to it, and when. What amendments are about to be applied. And what about how judges and courts have interpreted the legislation? What is the case history? These are just some of the questions which makes life just that bit more challenging!
The outcome of this week’s materials was an understanding of the different sources of information regarding legislation and commentary. There are many different sources of information, and it’s just a matter of sifting through it all to locate what you need. And you’re using journal articles, you need to consider if they relevant to your topic, and is the writing level of the material suitable for your audience. How reliable is the journal and the author, and how current is the information? And this is before you consider how to incorporate the material into your own essay of work! Thankfully there is a short checklist at the end of the last chapter giving ideas as to what to avoid and what to make sure you include!