Making a research plan: sources


Once you know what it is you need to research then you need to know where to look for the answers.  Good legal research will always involve looking at more than one source in fact you should be looking at using a handful of each type of resource as no one book or database will be comprehensive nor will they all cover the same area in as much depth.

Where to start: choosing your sources?

One of the major hurdles in the legal research process is knowing where to start, especially as there is so much information available to you.

Primary or secondary

For the LRSMP moot you will be citing primary sources only and so it tempting to try and dive straight into cases within databases.  However we would always suggest starting with secondary sources first, especially if it is an area of law you are not familiar with. This is because:

  1. The work of analysing the relevant primary sources has been done for you and there are in depth explanations of the legal concepts found in them.
  2. The databases are huge and may bring up too many results if you are researching broader topics such as ‘remoteness of damage’.
Online or hard copy

Some sources are only available in hard copy or online and some are available as both.  You are likely to have to use both even if you have a preference and there are advantages and disadvantages to both.  A hard copy text book is limited in the amount of information it has due to space but is likely therefore to include the most important information.  However it may not cover in much detail the narrow situation you are looking for and will not be as up to date.  An online source (such as a database) will allow you to use keywords to search and be up to date but will usually give you a disparate results list which may not give context to the topic.


Types of sources

Halsbury’s Laws of England

Halsbury’s Laws of England and Wales is an extremely authoritative encyclopaedia which covers the whole of the law as it currently stands arranged by broad legal topic.  It is something that you should try and use with any legal research that you do.

It is a statement of the law and so is unbiased and as such does not go into lots of detail, usually each heading is dealt with in a few paragraphs.  The strength is in the footnotes which will point you in the direction of cases and legislation.

It is published by Lexis Nexis and is available in hard copy within the Library or on Lexis+ UK. There is a video on searching it (and other sources on Lexis+ UK) under the Using the Databases section.


­You should look to consult a number of textbooks on the subject of your research (not just the one on your reading list).  You should also include a mixture of practitioner’s textbooks and academic ones in order to see different types of coverage.  If you do not know of any other textbooks then you can either use the library catalogue or better still ask a librarian for the name of a few. 

Practitioner textbooks are often found as ebooks on databases.  In Lexis+ UK these are listed as 'Books and Journals' under the content tab  and in Westlaw these can be found under ‘Westlaw Books’ at the top.


As well as textbooks you should also be searching for articles on the topic.  These are more likely to be up to date as they are published more regularly and are likely to be able to respond to a change in the law more quickly.

They can also provide a more in-depth look into topics that are not covered in general textbooks or can provide different arguments and alternative analysis which may help you formulate your arguments in tricky areas.

Although not impossible it is extremely hard to subject search articles in hard copy.  Most researchers now will use an article index online.  The main one we would always recommend you include for UK research is the Legal Journals Index which is on Westlaw.  Other article indexes include 'articles' on SOLO and Google Scholar, although both includes articles from other jurisdictions.

Other secondary sources

There are some other sources you can use that appear on the main legal databases, these can be seen in more detail in the next section but a summary is:

Practical Law: Practice Notes.   This database is aimed at the lawyer in practice but the resources on here can be particularly useful when you are researching for a moot.  The most useful resource is the ‘Practice Note’ which is a thorough overview of a legal topic.

Westlaw: Index to Legal Terms.  This is great as a starting point as an overview to the broad topic with key cases and legislation linked.

Searching primary sources

If you are wanting to subject search for cases and legislation then the major databases are the best tool.  Both Westlaw and Lexis+ UK have large case law sections and you can use your keywords to search.  You can also use VLex Justis for cases, this is a smaller database but can be good at allowing you to find the major cases without overwhelming you by thousands of results.

If you have a case mentioned  you can also use it as a starting point by using the case citators on the databases.  For more information on using citators, read the ‘Evaluating your research' page.

Now we have our keywords and have thought about the sources we should have the basis for the plan and so using the example of the junior counsel for the appellant it may look something like this:

Research Plan
Research questions
  • What in law constitutes a breach of duty?
  • Is there a test – what authorities set out the test?
  • Are there any exceptions or authorities that go against the ‘rule’?
  • What is meant by the damage being too remote?
  • Is there a test – what authorities set out the test?


  1. “Breach of duty”  - “standard of care”, “reasonable man”
  2. Damage and remote    - (“remoteness of damage?”), forseeability



Halsbury’s Laws (Lexis+ UK)

Academic textbooks:

Winfield and Jolowicz on tort, 19th ed, 2014 (hard copy)

McBride, tort law, 6th ed, 2018 (hard copy)

Hepple and Matthews' tort law : cases and materials, 7th ed, 2015 (hard copy)

Steele, tort law : text, cases, and materials, 4th ed, 2017 (hard copy)

Practitioner textbooks:

Charlesworth & Percy on negligence, 18th ed, 2018 (on Westlaw)

Clerk & Lindsell on torts, 21st ed, 2018 (on Westlaw)

Buckley, the law of negligence and nuisance (Common Law Series), 6th ed (on Lexis)


Legal Journals Index on Westlaw, SOLO: Articles, Google Scholar

Westlaw: Index of Legal Terms

Practical Law: Practice notes


Primary Sources

Case search on Westlaw UK, Lexis+ UK and VLex Justis