Exploring flexible International Research Networking and learning in the Australian educational landscape

International Educational engagement is key to ensuring equitable social and employment outcomes for all young people. Yet in Australia, a significant number of young people disengage from school at an early age. There is a pressing need for quality flexible learning programs to address this educational crisis. Though a complex task, quantifying the long-term economic and social benefits of flexible learning is critical to ensure ongoing public support of these important programs.

Research, including legal research, has three functions: a search function, an analysis function, and a communication function. The search function includes searching for and finding the law that relates to your legal problem.

To find the law, you must know the institutions of law, such as the relevant legislatures and courts that make law and interpret the law in your jurisdiction. You must also know the applicable sources of law, such as case law and statute. You must know the gateways to finding these sources of law, which include case digests, legal encyclopaedias, subject guides to legislation, and Internet sites. You must know how to use these gateways; for example, you might need to know what abbreviations a legal encyclopaedia uses or what kinds of Boolean logic a legal information database accepts.

These are mostly matters of knowledge, which you will have learned at law school, through continuing professional learning, and in your daily legal practice. The articles and software that we have compiled under the heading “Search” deal with the more fundamental, and less commonly taught, knowledge and skills.

This set of knowledge and skills will help you perform the “search function” of legal research better and more quickly, saving you time and money, improving case outcomes for you and your clients, and improving your career prospects.

One of the most important skills that you will learn as to how to improve your vocabulary. Among other benefits, expanding your vocabulary will help you in several aspects of the search function of legal research. For example, when searching a case index or encyclopaedia, it helps to think of as many alternative words and phrases as possible that describe or relate to your topic. For this, you need a wide and deep vocabulary.

The search function also depends partly on your word knowledge. For example, to search indexes thoroughly, it helps if you know common variations in spelling, such as “indorse” and “endorse”, “enquiry” and “inquiry”, “-ise” words and “-ize” words, and “-led” words and “-lled” words.

Similarly, to increase the speed of your legal research, you should increase the speed of your reading and improve your reading comprehension. For example, before you read a case, clarify in your mind what you want to get out of reading the case. If you are reading a textbook, read the book’s table of contents before reading the chapters; you will speed-up your reading and improve your comprehension if you know the book’s structure and you will know the parts to skim and the parts to read carefully.

To get started, explore the knowledge base we have compiled for you on the knowledge and skills you need when searching the law. Do not get daunted. We have included links to software that will help you with different aspects of the search function of legal research.