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Researching & Writing a Scholarly Paper for Law Library Guide: Finding authoritative tools

This guide combines guidelines for researching and writing scholarly papers, with a specific focus on legal writing.

Primary and secondary sources

Primary sources

These are the law itself: case law and legislation / statutory instruments. For case law, remember the doctrine of precedence applies!

Secondary sources:

These are commentary on the law: journal articles, textbooks, etc.

Finding sources: know your databases

While it may be tempting to think finding things will be quick, often to find the authoritative sources will be a long process and involve many searches.

Google Scholar is a great starting point, but it isn't a database in itself, and it also only searches through a few of the legal database.

A summary of the different databases and what they contain is as follows (those in blue are South African orientated, while the green ones are international / foreign databases).