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Legal Research Manual

This edition of Legal Research Manual builds on many previous editions. While the manual is designed principally for use with the first year legal research classes, upper year law students will also find it a useful reference.

William R. Lederman Law Library

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Law Library Team
William R. Lederman Law Library
128 Union Street Kingston, Ontario
Canada, K7L 2P1


This checklist is to help you consider all the different types of information that might be helpful for legal research. You won't necessarily need to use every type of information listed here, but the checklist helps you consider methodically if a particular type of information would be relevant to your research question.


  • What words or phrases are key to this area of law?
  • What other ways can the same concept be expressed (synonyms)?
  • As you work through this checklist, you will probably refine and add to this list.

Secondary Sources

Primary Sources - Legislation

Primary Sources - Case Law

  • Cases and Case Law Digests

    • Before beginning a full-text search, save time and increase precision by using the Canadian Abridgment ( available on Westlaw Edge) or the Canada Digest (on Lexis Advance Quicklaw) to find summaries of cases by topic.
    • For full-text case law searches, have you considered all the ways your topic might be expressed by different judges at different times?  Look again at your keywords to make sure you have all the relevant synonyms.
    • For full-text case law searches, if you have a broad topic or are retrieving too many cases, consider what subset of cases you need to search.  Can you narrow it by jurisdiction? By timeframe?  By court level?
  • Words and Phrases

  • Note up Cases

    • Make sure you know both the judicial history and subsequent legal treatment of cases you are relying on.
    • Tools for noting up include Westlaw Edge Canada and Lexis+.
**Once you have written up your research, don't forget the citations. The standard legal citation style in Canada is the McGill Guide (the Canadian Guide to Uniform Legal Citation). It is available in print or in Westlaw Edge Canada.**