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Undergraduate Law Support Services: Home

This guide highlight key resources which can be used to support your research in law and related subjects. Use the tabs at the top of the page to find information about different types of sources, legal skills guidance and referencing.

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Welcome to this library guide for undergraduate law students.  This guide will help you find the books, journals, databases and other information you need for your work.

‘The art of practising law is not to know all the answers, but to know where to find the answers. In order to find the answers, the practitioner must know what to look for. In order to know what to look for the practitioner must be able to sift the facts at hand and to define the problem he or she is dealing with’ (V Tunkel & A de W Horak xi). Academic study should teach one the requisite skills to ‘sift the facts at hand’. However, one is still left with the problem of finding the authority that you need to substantiate your case or finding the written law that will back up whatever case you are making. The information lies in all the physical (both print and electronic) sources of our law — the common law; the legislation; the law reports; the books and the encyclopedias.

Sources of Law

Research in law requires one to use a great many information sources. To begin with one needs to be aware of the many categories of sources in law. Broadly speaking the primary sources are common law, legislation (national and regional; statutes and regulations) and law reports. The secondary sources are encyclopedias, books and journal articles. In addition, one deals with information from different countries and jurisdictions. Government Gazettes and policy documents may also be used.

Primary sources are so named because they contain the law, whereas secondary sources are opinions or discussions on the law. The primary sources are therefore the authority that you use to substantiate your case. At all times up-to-date information is essential.Image result for primary and secondary sources of law in south africa

Two types of information sources are available for law:

Primary Sources refer to original material and the body of the law itself.

Examples that can be found in hard copy as well as electronically in the law library are:

  • Law Reports/ Case Law/ Judgments;
  • Legislation/ Act/ Statutes;
  • Government Gazettes.
  • Treaties and Conventions

Secondary Sources derive from primary sources of law and offer commentary on those sources.

Examples that can be found in hard copy as well as electronically in the law library are:

  • Reference Sources (dictionaries, encyclopedias & noter-ups);
  • Law books (text books);
  • Loose-leaf publications (regularly updated);
  • Law Journals;
  • Yearbooks.

Acting Law Librarian

Grace Van Niekerk's picture
Grace Van Niekerk
Contact:
University of the Western Cape
Law Library
Robert Sobukwe Road
Bellville
7535
+27(0)21 9592906

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