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Finding cases on a topic

Step 1

1. Develop multiple search terms to conduct research using Keyword; Browsing; Field searching

Hints: 

  • Choose search terms that are specific or closely related to the subject matter.

    Example: malpractice OR negligence

  • Consider using abbreviations or buzzwords.

    Example: Freedom of Information Act OR FOI

  • The terms should reflect ideas essential to your research topic, such as application, liability, or sentence.

  • Include alternative terms.

    Example: "In pari delicto"  OR equal fault

  • Avoid terms that are too general, such as 'duty of care' or tort

Step 2

1. Try these databases

      Firstpoint (Legal Online) - is an online case law research tool, and can be used to research the litigation history of a particular case, read summaries of key cases or research a particular area of law. An online tutorial is available.

      Casebase (LexisNexis Butterworth - Australia) - with complete case details including: Parties, Court, Judges, Citation and Decision Date; Parallel Citations; Case Annotations; Statute Annotations; Words and Phrases Judicially Considered; Catchwords and Digest.

      Queensland Legal Indices Online - is a judgments indexing service initiated by the SCQL in 1984. Coverage includes the Queensland Court of Appeal, Supreme Court and District Court, as well as the Planning and Environment Court and some other Queensland Tribunals.

       Australian Current Law - ACL Reporter provides comprehensive digests of all available judgments from the High Court, the Federal Court and the State Supreme courts, as well as important decisions from the Family Court, Federal Magistrate's Court, AAT and selected tribunals.

 

2. Full text database of law reports and unreported judgments such as

         Austlii - provides free internet access to Australasian legal materials.

         Queensland Courts - includes access to full-text judgments from the Queensland Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, District Court, and Planning & Environment Court. 

3. You can also use Secondary Sources such as CCH Online, Textbooks, Journals, Encyclopedias  to locate relevant caselaw

 

     

Develop multiple search terms to conduct research

  • Identify issues and sub-issues from your problem and use them to generate keywords
  • Avoid terms that are too general, such as 'duty of care' or tort, or combine broad general terms with more specific keywords
  • The terms should reflect ideas essential to your research topic, such as application, liability, or sentence
  • Look at the database Help for database specific keyword instructions

 
Suggestions for developing search terms 

Use search strategies

Browsing
A caselaw database may have a browse option for finding cases on a topic. For example, in FirstPoint on Westlaw AU, or Australian Current Law (ACL) Reporter on LexisNexis AU (LNau) you can browse for cases on a topic by expanding the Table of Contents. Look at the database 'help' pages and guides for database specific browsing instructions.

Keyword searches
Generate keywords from the legal issues you identify. Consider using alternative keywords as illustrated in the box above. You will find alternative keywords in your background reading, thesauri and subject fields of the results you find when searching. Look at the database 'help' pages and guides for specific keyword instructions. 

Field searches
Use the fields available in a search template to return highly relevant results. For example, in a citator or full text judgments database, a catchword field search for "battered woman syndrome" will only retrieve cases where the phrase is contained in the catchwords. Look at the database 'help' pages and guides for database specific Field information.

Databases to use to find cases on a topic

These are the preferred databases to use to find cases on a topic.

Additional databases you can use to find cases on a topic

You can also search fulltext judgment databases to find cases on a topic.  This method is useful if you do not have access to subscription based case research tools such as those listed above.

Finding cases on a topic

You can also use Commentary to locate caselaw on a topic.

Caselaw alerting services

Keep up to date with new case law. You can subscribe to these case law alerting services.

Queensland Legal Updater
Weekly alert for significant new Queensland caselaw. Once you have registered you can customise the alert to caselaw in a specific area of law. Free service. You will receive an alert only when there is a new judgment matching your customised account.

Daily Unreported Judgments Notifier (LNau)
Twice daily email alerts to new Australian unreported judgments from all jurisdictions. Only available with LNau paid subscription. You can customise subject and jurisdiction. You will receive an alert even if there are no new judgments matching your customised subscription.

BarNet Jade Alerts
Email alerts to new Australian unreported judgments from all jurisdictions. Available when you take out a free subscription to Jade (Judgments and Decisions Enhanced). An alert contains summaries of relevant cases and links to the full text of the cases. You will receive an alert only when there is a new judgment matching your customised subscription.