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Legal commentaries

Legal commentaries provide detailed information on a particular subject area.

They often provide a mix of commentary, legislation (full text or extracts) and key cases. Hard-copy commentaries are also known as Loose-leaf services - this format allows the commentary to be quickly and easily updated as the law changes.

The examples in this Guide highlight two major publishers of legal commentaries in Australia - Westlaw AU by Thomson Reuters & Lexis Advance Pacific.

To find other commentaries read the Commentary page under Fundamentals of Legal Research or use MultiSearch.

Westlaw AU (Thomson Reuters)

Westlaw AU is published by Thomson Reuters.

Key commentaries available include:

Q. Find commentary relating to land clearing in NSW

Select Legislation and commentaries from the tickboxes below the search bar.

In the Search box type "land clearing" > run search & view results.

Note: This search found results from all of the commentaries available via Westlaw AU. 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 heading select Environmental Responsibilities Law NSW > run search and view results.

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

International environmental commentary

Select Law Journal Library > Browse by: Subject. On the following page select the subject heading Environment/Conservation Law to view all journal titles on this subject.

This database contains subject lists for US material.

Select the Environment tab at the top of the page > then select a collection to search within > eg Search analysis, law reviews & journals

For other jurisdictions:

Select International Law > Search law reviews & journals  and select a title to view the content.

Select Directory at the top of the page > Topical practice areas > Environmental law > Law reviews, legal texts & periodicals > then select a collection to search within > eg Law reviews, texts & bar journals combined.

This international, interdisciplinary work focuses on solutions drawn from the natural, physical and social sciences to discuss environmental law and ethics, green business practices, regional sustainability issues, and resource and ecosystem management.

Finding an article when you have a citation

You can also use MultiSearch to find the full-text of a journal if you already know the article you need. Before you can find a journal in the catalogue, you will need to work out its full title from the abbreviation using the abbreviation tools listed here.

Q. Find a full-text copy of the article 'The mysterious origin of the law for conservation' JPL 1998, Mar, 203-209

From the Abbreviation tools list select Cardiff Index to Legal Abbreviations > Search by Abbreviation > type jpl > take note of the full title Journal of planning and environment law.

Go to MultiSearch > Click on Advanced search > in the Search box type journal of planning and environment law > change the drop-down from Any to Title and the second drop down box to starts with > from the results list select  Journal of Planning and Environment Law.

The journal is available from Westlaw International > in the Search for a database box type search box type journal of planning and environment law > select Go

In the search box type "mysterious origin of the law for conservation" > select Search

Select the article from the results list and either read online or download a PDF version.


Use MultiSearch to find library resources.

Q. Do some background reading on environmental law in Australia

Go to advanced search, in the Search box type environmental law australia > change the drop-down from Any to in subject > View the results

Tip: You can change the way the results are sorted using the Sorted by arrow > eg change the results to view the most recent books first. For background reading, try limiting your search to books using the link on the left hand side of the page.

Lexis Advance Pacific

provides a range of commentaries, including:‚Äč

Q. Find some background information on how climate change is affecting the aviation industry in Australia

Select the Source Directory tab > select Environmental Law > next to the 'Land & environment notes' heading select Browse > you are now viewing the table of contents for this commentary service.

Tip: You can also search the commentary by selecting Search from the left-hand side of the Table of Contents page.

Finding articles on a topic

Note: AGIS 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.

Q. Find articles discussing instances of toxic waste dumping in Australia

Select Advanced Search. In the first Search Query box type toxic OR hazardous %15 waste > in the second search box type australia Run search & 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 Findit@mq or MultiSearch to find a copy.

Q. Find articles discussing the issue of toxic waste dumping in the international sphere

Select Literature from the drop-down menu under Advanced search> select the List button next to the Subject field to browse the subject headings > tick the box next to Waste and hazardous substances > click Select to return to the search form. 

In the Words from record box type dumping disposal > drop-down the arrow and change All Words to Any Word > select Go & view results.

Tip: If an article isn't available in full-text, use MultiSearch to find a copy.