Legal materials

Legal materials for non-lawyers

Many useful legal materials for students who are not studying for a law degree but who need to consult legal materials (e.g. a social science student who needs to consult the Mental Health Act) are freely available on the web.

Secondary Sources:Primary legal materials are written in precise legal language, to limit ambiguity in court and are not easy reading. Make use of secondary sources (which summarise the main points and comment on the primary sources) to help clarify things for you. These include:

  • Books about the law - the library has an extensive collection of law books (both printed and electronic). You can find these by searching the Library Catalogue.
  • Reference books about the law - can be very useful for helping you to understand legal language (e.g. Mens rea). See The Oxford Dictionary of Law.
  • Journal articles about the law - the library also has a large collection of legal journals (both printed and electronic). The Westlaw UK database has a legal journals index with links to full text articles where available. You can also find many full text legal journal articles by searching the Ebscohost databases: Academic Search Elite, Ebscohost EJS and the SocIndex.
  • Newspaper articles about the law - if the legal issue you are interested in has been in the news then newspaper articles could be extremely useful. NewsBank Newspapers UK contains the full text of all the national and many of the local UK and Ireland newspapers for the last ten years. See the Newspapers and news sources section of this guide for details of more news sources. Newspaper articles and news sources should always be supplemented by more academic material.
  • Websites about the law - there are numerous legal websites which may help you. See Subject Gateways under the Law heading.

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