This online tutorial provides an introduction to the structure of primary and secondary legal materials. It was designed to support the Research & Mooting Skills programme, which is compulsory for all first year undergraduates in the Faculty of Law. Oxford Law students will find information about the course on Weblearn.
The Overview section explains how primary legal materials such as legislation and case law are developed and cited, and provides a guide to key secondary sources. It also provides a succinct overview of the legal research process.
The Electronic Resources section explains Boolean searching and provides a guide to finding case law and legislation in Justis, Lexis and Westlaw. This is followed by a guide to finding journal articles in the electronic sources available to Oxford students, and a brief outline of journal indexes. Finally there is a guide to using the online version of Halsbury’s Laws of England. Most online versions of legal texts, such as Chitty on Contracts, work similarly to Halsbury’s Laws.
The Printed Resources section provides a guide to using hard copy indexes and citators to find and update case law and legislation. Some of these sources are no longer produced. However the methods for indexing and updating law were developed in hard copy sources and have provided the basis for the structure of citator features of legal databases. While many students will prefer to use online sources for this kind of research, it can be useful to know how it was done before we had legal databases.