Law: Dictionaries, Encyclopaedias, Words & Phrases

Where to start

Why use legal dictionaries and encyclopaedias?

Legal terms have very specific meanings so using a legal dictionary and/or legal encyclopaedia is a great place to start your research and gain a better understanding of your topic.

Legal Dictionaries

Online Legal Dictionaries

Legal dictionaries help to clarify a term or provide a definition. Of the many legal dictionaries available online, these are consistently useful in an Australian context:

TIP: You may need to consult more than one dictionary to define all of your terms.

Australian Legal Words and Phrases

Contains words and phrases which have either been defined in legislation or judicially interpreted. Over 100,000 words and phrases from Australian case law and legislation are listed.




Legal Encyclopaedias

Why use Legal Encyclopaedias?

Legal encyclopaedias are another source of information that should be consulted in your research. Rather than giving an in depth analysis of an issue, as in a journal article, legal encyclopaedias give you an overview of what the law is in a particular area or jurisdiction, including relevant cases and legislation.

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As with any other encyclopaedia or book, legal encyclopaedias can become out of date, so always check the currency of the paragraph you are reading to see when it was last updated to ensure your information is current.

Legal encyclopaedias can provide key facts that may not be found in either books or journal articles.

Halsbury's Laws of Australia

Halsbury's Laws of Australia is part of the Lexis Advance Pacific group of databases. It is a comprehensive legal encyclopaedia providing definitive statements of the law supported by primary authority contained in detailed footnotes.

Watch this video (1:11) to discover how to effectively browse Halsbury's Laws of Australia.

For more videos and tips on searching see the Lexis Advance Pacific training page.

Video provided courtesy of Lexis Advance Pacific

Laws of Australia

The Laws of Australia is part of the Westlaw AU group of databases. The Laws of Australia database provides legal practitioners with a clear and concise statement of each principle of Australian law. These principles are accompanied by an explanatory statement and legal authorities.

The quick guide to Westlaw AU provides a good introduction to some of the key features.