Legal Research Methods

Unit code: BLB1114 | Study level: Undergraduate
(Generally, 1 credit = 10 hours of classes and independent study.)
City Campus
Online Real Time


This is a foundation unit for law students and others studying in the justice professions and involves three related areas – understanding research as an active, critical and reflective process, identifying, understanding and utilising research sources in a legal studies context, and developing legal analytical skills. Research is a fundamental skill which enables you to improve your knowledge, understanding and action in daily life. In an academic and legal setting, it enables you to locate contemporary law and academic knowledge, then critically evaluate the content and credibility of sources. The unit introduces the concept and process of research, encouraging students to develop their critical reading and analytical skills. It introduces the academic integrity principles and citation systems that scholarly writing must employ. Like any discipline, law uses its own language and media forms and this unit is designed to enable students to master these. Legal scholars must be familiar with primary sources of law and the specific ways in which academic and legal authorities must be recorded in legal writing. The unit introduces students to the broad variety of secondary and primary legal sources and the manner in which they may be both located and cited. Legal scholarship involves an understanding of the relationship between primary legal sources and the dynamic between primary and secondary legal sources. This unit provides students with the legal knowledge and analytical skills necessary to master scholarly legal analysis. By focusing on the technical and conceptual skills underlying legal research, the unit seeks to provide a guide which students can return to for reference throughout their course and to develop skills that can be built upon in subsequent units of study.

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this unit, students will be able to:

  1. Engage in academic and legal research and contextualise legal research in inquiry into particular legal issues;
  2. Locate and critically evaluate the value of textual sources, synthesise information within them, and correctly cite research sources;
  3. Locate and critically evaluate the impact of legal authorities – case law, legislation, international law and regulatory instruments in a wide range of contemporary contexts;
  4. Understand, explain and apply legal knowledge in the analysis of primary legal sources, evaluate their relationship to each other, and determine legal currency in practical scenarios;
  5. Articulate opinions in an academic manner supported by research evidence and confirm development in academic and legal literacy skills; and
  6. Frame the discourse of law as one of many approaches to social problems and contextualise legal knowledge in relation to other academic, social and community discourses.


For Melbourne campuses

Assessment type: Assignment
Grade: 30%
Secondary Source
Assessment type: Assignment
Grade: 50%
Research Essay
Assessment type: Test
Grade: 20%
Online quiz

Required reading

Additional readings as listed in the Unit of Study Guide and/or in the unit’s VuCollaborate space.

Foundations of Australian Law and Legal Writing: A custom publication for Victoria University
Raponi, K., de Saint, J., O'Sullivan, C., (2022)| LexisNexis
Australian Guide to Legal Citation
Melbourne University Law Review et al (eds), 2018| Melbourne University Law Review Association

As part of a course

This unit is studied as part of the following course(s):

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