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Legal research guide: Secondary sources: How to Search

Learn how to develop an effective search strategy and then use it to locate relevant secondary sources to support your research for law assignments.

Develop a search strategy

Get good results when searching with these pro tips:

  • Identify key concepts, words & phrases on your topic
  • Identify alternative search words (synonyms) - use dictionaries & encyclopaedia for this
  • Find introductory information to make sure you are using the right words - encyclopaedia are the best place to start
  • Create relationships between words & phrases using search operators (Boolean) - AND, OR, NOT and quotation marks around phrases
  • Select the resources to search
  • Check the search tips in each database - they are similar but different
  • Depending on the results, refine the search if necessary
  • Evaluate the reliability of sources found

Want More?
Check out the online tutorial called How to develop a search strategy from Monash University Library

How to search using Boolean

To help refine your keyword searches it is recommended that you use Boolean operators (AND, OR, and NOT).  These operators help connect your search terms and are used to broaden or narrow your search results.

AND - Placing AND between search terms instructs the database that both terms must appear somewhere in the results list.

NOT - When you place NOT before a keyword search it instructs the database that the keyword must not appear anywhere in the entry.

OR - Using OR between keywords instructs the database to search either or both of the keywords in the results list.

You are able to combine any of the Boolean operators to build very specific searches.

Why can't I just Google?

To find out why, watch this video created by La Trobe University Library.

Banner image sources: Pixabay 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 licensed under a CC0 1.0 Universal license.


 Except for logos, Canva designs or where otherwise indicated, content in this guide is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International Licence.