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Case Law: Further tips for finding cases

Tip on our 'tips'

The information on the first two pages of this guide uses Australian case law for its examples, however, the basic principles are transferable to finding law in almost any other common law jurisdiction. We hope these pages help you find the case/s you are looking for!

Case citations

Features of a typical citation for a law report

Finding cases by citation or name

By citation 

a. 'Round brackets'

Add volume number, report abbreviation and page number to citation search box

   e.g., Commonwealth v Tasmania  (1975) 175 CLR 1   >>  < 175 clr 1 >

b. 'Square brackets'

For citations without a consecutive volume number (usually a 'square bracket' style of citation), add the year  too

   e.g., Aydin v Australian Iron & Steel [1984] 3 NSWLR 684   >>  < 1984 3 nswlr 684 >

c. Medium neutral 

For this type, year, abbreviation of court and adminstrative number

   e.g., Commonwealth v Tasmania [1983] HCA 21   >>  < 1983 hca 21 >  

By case name

Add party names into the 'case title' field and replace ' v ' with AND

   e.g., Commonwealth v Tasmania (1975) 175 CLR 1   >> < commonwealth AND tasmania >

   e.g., Aydin v Australian Iron & Steel [1984] 3 NSWLR 684   >>  < aydin AND "australian iron & steel" >


What are case citators?

Find the judicial history of a case

Fundamentally, a case citator is a tool for discovering the judicial history of a case. That is, it lists all subsequent cases that cited this decision as a precedent since it was first delivered. By use of flags or other symbols, the citator indicates whether the original case and each subsequent case citing it are still ‘good law’.

Finding tool for cases

Case citators also provide basic data on cases, such as the jurisdiction, name of judge/s, date decision was handed down, full names of the parties, and all the law reports where it can be found (parallel citations), etc. The Lexis Advance stand-alone case citator CaseBase also usually presents a digest of the case, which is a short analysis of the important points of law it addresses. Lexis Advance's main competitor, Westlaw Australia, presents case citator information in association with the full-text cases themselves rather than as separate records in a stand-alone database.

Finding cases by topic

By topic keyword

To find cases on a specific topic (e.g, bikie laws), put keywords into the Free Text or Search Terms box in your database

Tip: Search on your terms in Google, Wikipedia or a legal encyclopedia to find other popular phrases

For example, for < bikie laws >, you will find that the more 'official sounding' phrase < outlaw motorcycle gangs >  works better!

By way of secondary literature

Another tip is to search the secondary literature on your topic. General introductions to areas of law will make you aware of important cases

For example, a brief browse in the literature on Torts will reveal that you will need to read the landmark case, Donoghue v Stevenson [1932] AC 562

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