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What is Commentary?

Commentary is considered secondary material - material that makes comment on, or analyses, legislation or cases.  Types of commentary include:

  • Journal articles
  • Loose-leaf services
  • Books
  • Papers written by government bodies, associations or other stakeholders

Commentary is a great way to gain a deeper understanding of the impact something has on the wider community.

The main legal publishers LexisNexis (Lexis Advance Pacific), Thomson Reuters (Westlaw AU), and WoltersKluwer (CCH IntelliConnect) all publish commentary over the breadth of legal practice areas.  Check them out to find material related to your subject area.

Commentary Databases

CCH Intelliconnect provides a range of commentaries, including:

  • Australian Competition and Consumer Law Commentary
  • Australian Employment Law Guide
  • Australian and New Zealand Insurance Commentary
  • Australian Premium Master Tax Guide

CCH textbooks are available through Wheelers ebooks Online (see the link below) or by searching MultiSearch.

Worked example for CCH:

Q. Find information on leave entitlements under the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth)

Scroll down the subject listing on the left-hand side and select the plus + symbol next to Employment and HR > tick the box next to Australian Employment Law Guide

In the search box at the top of the page type "fair work act" "leave entitlements" > run search & view the results > select a heading to view the paragraph

Tip: Select Document Path at the top of the paragraph to see a breadcrumb trail of where you are in the commentary. You can select one of the hyperlinked headings to view other sections of the commentary.

Lexis Advance Pacific provides a range of commentaries, including:

  • Australian Corporation Law Principles and Practice
  • Cross on Evidence
  • Ford's Principles of Corporations Law
  • Ritchie's Uniform Civil Procedure NSW

Worked example for Lexis Advance Pacific

Q. Find some background information on offences relating to copyright infringement in Australia

From the Browse dropdown arrow at the top-left of the homepage, select Publications.  Enter the title Copyright & Designs. Select the Table of Contents for Copyright and Designs. You are now viewing the table of contents for this commentary service.

Select the plus + symbol next to Infringement > then select the heading Exclusive Rights and Infringement

Tip: You can also search the commentary by using the Red Search Box at the top of the page within Copyright & Designs.

Westlaw AU is published by Thomson Reuters. Key commentaries available include:

  • Australian Bankruptcy Law and Practice
  • Lawyers Practice Manual NSW
  • The Law of Trusts
  • Uniform Evidence Law

Worked examples for Westlaw Australia:

Q. Find commentary relating to the sentencing of mentally ill people in NSW

Select Legislation and Commentary from the tickboxes beneath the search box.

In the Search box type "mental illness" and sentencing > run search & view results

Note: This search found results from all of the commentaries available via Westlaw Australia. To retrieve more relevant results, you can also search within a specific commentary title.

From the results list, select Edit Search > leave the search terms in the box > under the Product Title heading select Criminal Law NSW > run search and view results.

Tip: You can also browse the Table of Contents for a commentary by using the headings on the left-hand side. Eg select Chapter 14 Sentencing from the menu to view the contents of that chapter.

Q. Find articles relating to the issue of judicial independence in matters of human rights

Note: You are searching full-text articles in Westlaw Australia, so you may need to limit your search by adding more keywords or restricting the date range if you get too many results.

Select Journals and in the Free Text search box type "judicial independence" /50 "human rights" > View results

Note: This is a proximity search, the phrase 'judicial independence' must appear within 50 words of the phrase 'human rights' in the article. This kind of search finds more relevant results.

AGIS (Attorney-General's Information Service) is an index of articles - you are not searching full-text articles.

Tip: Always check the help section before using a new database to find out the correct way to enter your keywords.

Worked example for AGIS:

Q. Find articles discussing the constitutional aspects of discrimination and human rights in Australia

In the Search Query box type "human rights" and constitution* and discriminat* > View results

Select Complete Record for one of the articles to see where your search terms have been found.

Tip: If an article isn't available in full-text, use Article Linker or the Multisearch to find a copy.

Law Alerts & Journal Table of Contents

Use alerting email or RSS feed services to keep up to date with developments in law.  Most of the services listed below require a free registration.