Finding UK Legal Information

Topic outline

  • General

    Finding UK Legal Information

    This tutorial provides you with the foundations for locating UK legal information at Loughborough University. You can work through the tutorial sequentially or jump to the sections that are most relevant to your needs.

    By the end of this tutorial you will be able to:

    1. Appreciate why you need to identify the jurisdiction for the law that you are searching.

    2. Locate UK cases by name or citation within law reports.

    3. Identify key sources for locating UK cases by subject.

    4. Find and update UK legislation.

    5. Find legal journal articles by subject.

    • Topic 2

      Case Law

      The UK is a what is called a "Common Law" country. Common Law is defined by the OED Online [accessed 26/01/2007] as:

      The unwritten law of England, administered by the King's courts, which purports to be derived from ancient and universal usage, and is embodied in the older commentaries and the reports of adjudged cases

      It means that the law is built on the judgments that have been given in previous cases. Judges can apply or consider previous judgments in cases which cover similar points of law. Or they can distinguish between, what might appear to be similar, cases, by pointing out that there are different legal aspects to be considered in the more recent case. This ensures that the law is constantly adapting to the country's changing needs.

      It is important to understand this because often legal databases allow you to look at the history of a particular case and this indicates whether a judgment is 'good' law. Good law means that the judgment is still being regarded as relevant as a precedent and has not been overturned or revoked by a subsequent ruling by a higher court or a later judgment.

      The resources below explain more about the system and how to trace cases.

    • Topic 3


      There are two main types of UK legislation: Primary and Secondary.

      Primary legislation refers to Statutes, of which again there are two types: Public General Acts and Local and Private Acts. The vast majority of statutes that you will need to find are Public General Acts, which are what this tutorial will discuss.

      Secondary legislation includes regulations and orders, which are usually released as Statutory Instruments (SIs).

    • Topic 4

      Finding Journal Articles

      The main problem people usually encounter when trying to locate journal articles, is the fact that they are usually cited using abbreviations. If you need to find an abbreviation or how to abbreviate a legal journal title or a set of law reports, then go to the Cardiff Index to Legal Abbreviations.

      The links below describe the different types of journal available and how to locate journal articles on a particular topic.

    • Topic 5

      Citing legal materials

      In UK law there is not one authoritative system for how to cite legal authorities, unlike the United States. However, Oxford University has invented a scheme called Oxford Standard for Citation Of Legal Authorities (OSCOLA) which is aims to set down some basic rules to follow. To see the latest version of these standards go to the OSCOLA website. You should also check your own department's referencing style for any specific guidance.
      • Topic 6

        Further information

        If you need any information about finding legal information, please contact your own Academic Librarian or Helen Young.

        The following books explain the process of finding legal information in more depth:

        Clinch, P (2001) Using a law library: a student's guide to legal research skills, 2nd ed., Blackstone.

        Thomas, P (2001) Dane and Thomas How to use a law library: an introduction to legal skills, 4th ed., Sweet & Maxwell.