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Law - Beginning Your Research

How to do legal research.

Legal Textbooks

Legal textbooks:

  • provide in-depth commentary and scholarly analysis of areas of law
  • provide footnotes with citations to potentially relevant cases, statutes and secondary authorities
  • include useful standard features such as: tables of contents and indexes; and tables of cases, statutes and abbreviations

Finding Books on Your Topic

Using the Library Catalogue:

From any UBC library page (e.g. ),

  1. Click on Search Collections
  2. Click on Books & Media (Catalogue)

Keyword Searching

Keyword searching is a good way to begin your search for relevant books and other materials on your topic.

Under Search Catalogue, select Keywords (use AND, OR, NOT or “a phrase”)

  • Try combinations of words that might be used to describe your topic or that might appear in the title of a relevant book
  • Enclose phrases in quotation marks
  • Use the word “and” between your terms to narrow your results
  • Use a question mark to search for any ending of a root word

Examples:  contracts and law and canada

                   "international law" and refugee?

  • Once you have generated a list of results, scan the list for books that might be relevant to your topic
  • Click on the titles of these books to see the full records
Records include ‘clickable’ subject headings that allow you to find additional books on the topic that you are researching

Subject Searching

A subject heading:

  • is a word or phrase assigned to materials to describe its subject content
  • can have additional subheadings

Example:   Refugees--Legal status, laws, etc.--Canada

Searching by subject:

  • provides a list of materials with the same subject heading
  • finds additional materials that are relevant to the searched topic

In the catalogue record:

  • click on a subject heading to jump to where it appears in an alphabetical list of subject headings
  • click on other subject headings to find similar materials

Subject begins with and Subject keyword equals options are also available.

Searching by Call Number

Call number:

  • is a unique number given to a book in order to give it a specific location on a library shelf
    Example:  KE 4454 .I43 2007
  • click on the call number in the catalogue record to jump to its location in an ordered list
    • this is like browsing library shelves to discover books that are similar in content

UBC Law Library’s book classification system arranges books by jurisdiction.

In the example above;

  • KE represents Canada
  • 4454 refers to the subject “refugee law”
  • I43 is the author designation
  • 2007 is the year of publication


Books in the Reference Room:
  • browse to become familiar with some of the leading texts in various subject areas
  • includes many of the latest editions of most of the leading Canadian & British legal texts
  • For example:
    • Canadian Criminal Law & Procedure: KE 8801 – KE 9440
    • Canadian Contracts: KE 850 – KE 1225
    • Canadian Torts: KE 1232 – KE 1309
    • Property Law: KE 618 – KE 781
    • Constitutional law: KE 4125 – KE 4381.5


Selective Lists of Law Books:

For a list of books and other Canadian research resources: