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Law subject guide: Books & articles

Quicklinks: law books and articles

Dictionaries and reference

Law dictionaries are useful for defining words and explaining concepts.

The print collection at and around K120 includes Butterworths New Zealand Law Dictionary (K120.5 HM93 2005), Black's law directory (K120.5 BL64) and other general law dictionaries, and dictionaries for specific jurisdictions and subjects.

Online sources include:

Legal encyclopedias

A legal encyclopedia is like a huge, comprehensive textbook, arranged alphabetically by title. It's a great place to start, especially for unfamiliar topics, as it will give you an overview, plus references to legislation and cases.

Key print sources:

  • Laws of New Zealand (Law KG351 LD51)
  • Halsbury's laws of Australia (Law KG51 H3)
  • Halsbury's laws of England (Law KF85 H1 2008)

Key online sources:

New Books in the Law Library

Here are this week's new books, currently on display in the Law Library, opposite the Desk.

Also on display: journals, report series and current awareness tools like Butterworths Current Law and The Capital Letter.

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Books and articles outside our collection

If you need a book that is not available here at Otago, you can borrow it from another NZ or Australian library for free! Request them through our  Inter-library Loan Service.

Want help? Just ask.

Books and articles: secondary sources for law

Secondary sources are a good starting point for legal research. You get an overview of the topic, and references to primary sources (e.g. legislation and case law). But don't rely on secondary sources - they are not the law; and they are not always up-to-date either.

This page has information about


E-books and articles

There are a number of places to look for e-books (electronic books) and articles.


You can search or browse specific collections in general publishers' databases - this is particularly useful for inter-disciplinary research. Here are some e-collections with law-related content:


Find Law Books in Library Search | Ketu

Use Library Search | Ketu  to find books that will help with your legal research: 

Find articles using an index

We recommend using an index to find relevant articles - it's usually simpler and more efficient than full-text searching.

Start with LinxPlus - good for New Zealand content; then move on to LegalTrac, because it's bigger.

If you don't get a link to the full text, try Library Search | Ketu to find the journal title - try an advanced search,material type journals, and search for the title of the journal that contains your article.

For earlier material (anything before the mid-1980s), you'll want print sources as well - just ask.


Commentary refers to a certain kind of publication of expert opinion, for example, Adams on Criminal Law, or Morison's Company Law. The aim is to bring together everything you might need to know about  an area of law - legislation, cases, commentary - in one, easy-to-update package, so you need never leave your desk.  They are used a lot in practice.

Check the Law databases page to see what online commentary we have available, or explore the major database sites, or just ask.


Law commission reports

Law commission reports are part of the law reform process. They offer a valuable critique of existing law, plus proposals for change.

You can find law commission reports

  • via the catalogue
  • by browsing the shelves, starting at KL160. There are separate sequences for each jurisdiction, with New Zealand  material at KL178
  • or online

Online sources include: