Skip to Main Content

Student Guide for Legal Research

Secondary Source Toolkit

All the basic tools you’ll need to start building a solution to a legal research problem

Legal Encylcopedias

Canadian Encyclopedic Digest (CED) 4th ed (print & online- Westlaw Next Canada)

Halsbury’s Laws of Canada (print & online – Lexis Advance Quicklaw)

Halsbury’s Laws of England 5th ed (ask staff for assistance)

Use to …

  • gain a quick overview of a subject area early in your research
  • find applicable statutes or a few relevant cases
  • determine jurisdiction (provincial, federal or both)
  • find information on a topic not covered by a textbook


  • sometimes too general
  • may not be up-to-date – always check currency of subject title


Texts, Loose-leaf Services

Use to …

  • start your research with more in-depth coverage of a single subject area
  • find extensive references to case law and legislation
  • find key terms and phrases for more effective subsequent online searching
  • access commentary written by experts - possible persuasive value in court


  • may not find a current text on your topic
  • quality varies – evaluate coverage, currency, organization and authority

Find relevant texts by:

  1. Searching a law library catalogue
  2. Consulting a topical legal research guide
  3. Asking your principal, a law librarian or colleague


Legal Periodicals

Law reviews, bar journals, legal magazines and newspapers, current awareness newsletters, blogs

Use to …

  • find information on specific or narrow topics
  • find information on new or changing areas of law
  • find scholarly analysis, case commentaries, news on recent cases or legislation


  • no updating mechanism
  • quality varies – look for peer-reviewed sources and subject expert contributors

Find relevant articles by searching:

  1. Indexes, such as the Index to Canadian Legal Literature, Current Index to Legal Periodicals (US), Legal Journals Index (UK, EU)
  2. Databases of full text journals found in Lexis Advance Quicklaw, Westlaw Next Canada or HeinOnline


Legal Dictionaries

Barron's Canadian Law Dictionary. 6th ed, 2009

Dukelow, Dictionary of Canadian Law. 4th ed, 2011

Garner, Black's Law Dictionary. 11th ed, 2019

Jowitt’s Dictionary of English Law. 5th ed, 2019

Martin, Oxford Dictionary of Law. 9th ed, 2018

Use to …

  • clarify the meaning of legal terms
  • find additional search terms


Words and Phrases

Canadian Legal Words and Phrases (on Lexis Advance Quicklaw)

Words and Phrases (Canadian Abridgment) (print and on Westlaw Next Canada)

Sanagan’s Encyclopedia of Words and Phrases, Legal Maxims, 5th ed, 2005- (print and on ProView)

Stroud, Judicial Dictionary of Words and Phrases, 9th ed, 2016 (UK) (print)

Words and Phrases (US) (on Westlaw)

Use to …

  • find how a word or phrase has been interpreted by the courts (useful when a research problem turns on the meaning of a particular term or phrase)


Forms and Precedents

O’Briens Encyclopedia of Forms (print and on Westlaw Next Canada)

Canadian Forms and Precedents (print and on Lexis Advance Quicklaw)

Williston and Rolls Court Forms (print and on Lexis Advance Quicklaw)

Bullen & Leake & Jacob's Canadian Precedent of Pleadings (print)

Lexis Practical Guidance (online)

Use to …

  • draft pleadings, agreements, contracts, etc.