Canadian Legal Research and Citation Guide
Chapter 1: Introduction to Legal Research and Citation
This chapter provides an general overview of
▪ primary and secondary resources
▪ the process of legal research
▪ Legal terminology and citation.
Primary and Secondary Legal Resources
It is common to divide the world of legal information into two broad categories:
▪ Primary legal resources include:
▪ (i) legislation (statutes, regulations, and orders-in-council) and
▪ (ii) case law (decisions of courts and administrative tribunals).
Primary legal resources are the products of official bodies with the authority to make law. Thus, primary legal resources can affect the legal rights of citizens.
▪ Secondary legal resources include:
▪ textbooks, legal journals, legal encyclopedias, and case law digests/summaries.
Secondary legal resources are the best starting point for legal research. They are referred to for their instructive value and for the references they provide to relevant primary sources of law.
The Process Of Legal Research
The ability to conduct effective legal research is a valuable and transferable skill. Good research skills will enable the reseacher to find and locate information even in unfamiliar areas of the law.
1) Analyze the Facts and Identify the Issues
This constitutes your preliminary screening of the problem. Do the facts suggest a contract? Might you have to sue the Crown? Has someone been refused a job because of their religious beliefs? Thinking about such basic issues allows you to focus your research and identify any sub-issues that also require investigation. In addition, the research process itself may lead you to issues that did not occur to you initially.
2) Get a Broad Overview of the Subject Using Secondary Legal Resources
Consult secondary legal materials such as those described above. These tools will give you a broad overview of your topic and lead you to other...