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Researching Secondary Law Sources

Defining your terms

Lawyers use words or phrases with very specific legal meanings. Many terms and phrases, such as "right to silence", may be used in legal writing without being defined as it is assumed that the reader will be familiar with the terminology. For the new law student, it is vital that you consult a legal dictionary for any terms you need to define or clarify.

For any research topic you need to understand the legal meanings of the terms used. Without an accurate understanding of what the terms mean, you may misinterpret the topic. You may also find it difficult to compile a list of keywords (search terms). 

Online Australian Legal Dictionaries

Australian Law Dictionary via Oxford Reference Online         


Encyclopaedic Australian Legal Dictionary via Lexis Advance.                                                           

LexisNexis Concise Australian Legal Dictionary (Lexis Nexis, 6th edition, 2020).

Available as an ebook on the ProQuest ebook platform.




Print dictionaries

Some good print law dictionaries which you can borrow from the Library are:

English legal dictionariesOxford Dictionary of Law image

A Dictionary of Law (9th edition, Oxford University Press, 2018) [via Oxford Reference Online]

Jowitt's dictionary of English Law (5th edition, Sweet & Maxwell, 2019) [print]



English dictionaries

The standard English dictionary used by Australian courts and government departments is the Macquarie Dictionary (AGLC4 rule 1.9.1).

Macquarie Dictionary online is constantly updated with words as they enter our language, covering English as it is used in Australia from the colloquial to the technical.

Oxford English Dictionary online is the full text version of the 20 volume print edition.