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Key databases

Legal research "how-to's"

What is a case citation?

A case citation is a unique identifier of a court case.  It is a good way to search for a specific case. There are different types of citations, but the two most common types are:

  • Medium neutral citation 
  • Reported case citation.


Medium neutral citation

A medium neutral citation is created by the court when its decision is handed down. It consists of the parties’ names, the year, the unique court identifier, and the judgment number. For example the citation [2003]FCA901 means it was the 901st case heard in the Federal Court of Australia in 2003.


Reported case citation

Cases that raise significant points of law or expand on our understanding of the law are reported in a law report series.

A reported case citation consists of the parties' names, the year, the law report series volume number, the abbreviation of the law report series, and the page number on which the case commences.

Using legal dictionaries and encyclopaedias

Before you search for Journal Articles you need to understand the topic you are looking for.

Legal dictionaries and encyclopaedias are a good starting point. They help you gain an overview on the legal concept you are researching.

Using these you will find the term and can gain not only an understanding of what the concept is, but also key cases that have considered this topic.

We have the following you can choose from:

  • Encyclopaedic Australian Legal Dictionary (Lexis Advance Pacific)
  • Halsbury's Laws of Australia (legal encyclopaedia) (Lexis Advance Pacific)
  • Laws of Australia (Westlaw AU)
  • Australian Law Dictionary (Oxford Reference - Law)


Using a dictionary, Look up the term frustration. We can see that frustration is a reason that a contract is terminated due to an unexpected event that fundamentally or radically changes the outcome of the contract in terms of performance or benefits.

When we run our search we know that we are looking for articles about an unexpected contract outcome, not about someone getting annoyed.

Finding a Journal Title via Citation

Law journal articles are often given using an abbreviated form of the journal title.

So how do you find out what the title of the journal is from the abbreviated form (or citation).
The best database to use is the Cardiff Index to Legal Abbreviations.

This is a worldwide index so always make sure you have the right journal.  More often than not you will be wanting the Australian jurisdiction.


Cardiff example - alj

You will need to know how to find the full name of a journal as the Australian Guide to Legal Citation 4 (AGLC4) states in section 5.5 (page 93) that you need to enter the full name of the journal in the citation (footnote) not the abbreviation.

Case Law

Authorised Law Reports

Note: All the current Authorised report series for all Commonwealth, Federal, and all Supreme Courts of Australian states are available on Westlaw AU.

Unauthorised Law Reports

Legislative materials

Key Statutory Interpretation Acts

Bills Digests

Bills Digests are written by the parliamentary library. They provide a timely and independent perspective on legislation. They are written to assist members of Parliament in their consideration of Bills. The digests provide a plain English summary of Bills and detail their purpose, background and main provisions complementing the legislative material provided by the Government.

Queensland does not have a bills digest.

Explanatory Memoranda (EM)

Explanatory Memoranda (EM) explain the contents and purpose of a bill in plain English. Explanatory Memoranda contain a clause by clause description of a bill.

In the Federal Parliament Commonwealth Explanatory Memoranda came into regular use from about 1978/1982 and are kept with bills. Explanatory Statements have been issued for Commonwealth Regulations since 1993.

Research Papers

The Parliamentary Libraries prepare papers on legislation before the Parliament ​​and on major issues of interest to members. Papers cover a broad range of subject areas including law, politics, government, environment, economics and social issues

Law Reform

Secondary Sources

Key Australian Encyclopedias and Dictionaries

Criminology Library Guide

Abbreviations and AGLC4

Find the meaning of law journal and law report abbreviations, for example:

  • ALJ - Australian Law Journal
  • QB - Law Reports, Queen's Bench


Contact the Library

Guide last reviewed 12 December 2022