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Legal encyclopaedia

If you are not sure where to start your research or don't know much about a topic, a legal encyclopaedia can provide a good starting point.

The online encyclopaedias below cover all areas of Australian law and are continuously updated.  They provide a good introduction to legal principles and provide valuable references to relevant cases and legislation.  Use at least two, as coverage may differ and  sections may be updated at different times.

Tip: Check the currency statement at the top of each paragraph - it may be necessary to find more up to date material if a section is not current.

Halsbury's Laws of Australia

Depending on what you already know about your topic, you can choose to browse or search.


Use the Table of Contents to browse broad subject areas by selecting different volume titles:

eg 90 Constitutional Law

Use the plus (+) symbols to view more specific chapters and paragraphs.


From the Table of Contents page select Search at the top left-hand side of the page or if you are reading an entry select Search Source from the top right-hand side of the page.

Use the Search Terms box to search by topic:

eg Search Terms box > type acquisition of property > click Search > view results

Tip: If you're not sure how to enter your search terms, check the Search Tips at the top of the page.

The Laws of Australia

Similar to Halsbury's, you can browse or search this encyclopaedia.


Select the broad subject area from the left side:

eg 9. Criminal law principles

Use the plus (+) symbols to view more specific chapters or click on the title of a paragraph to read it.


From the home page of the Encyclopaedia you can search using keywords or if you are reading an entry select New Search from the top of the page.

eg Free Text Search box > type "burden of proof" and civil > view results

Tip: Click on the blue information symbol for search tips specific to that field

Legal Dictionaries

Legal dictionaries can help you start your research by providing you with a concise definition of the law. They will also help improve your legal vocabulary. Dictionaries vary in their content - they may:

  • Be subject specific (eg business law)
  • Cover one jurisdiction (eg Australia)
  • Provide a full definition of a term, including its legal history
  • Simply list the legislative authority (ie leading you to legislation or case law where the term has been defined).

Australian Legal Dictionaries

See the links below for access to a number of different Australian-focus legal dictionaries.  

International Legal Dictionaries