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A key to NZ legal literature by Mind Map: A key to NZ legal literature
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A key to NZ legal literature

This mindmap is a key to understanding and finding New Zealand legal literature. It shows the main types of literature (they are blue) and some of the key resources (they're green) you might want to use. And it includes links to some online sources, most of which require a University of Otago username and password. Note: it is a beginner's guide, not a substitute for the richer content on the Law Subject Guide. So. Chances are that you will want to find the law itself. That's the primary material - the statutes and cases which contain our law. And you may want to find secondary material - that's commentary like books and articles, stuff that discusses the law. Where you start depends on what you've already got. If you have a reference to an act or a case, find it and read it, and then maybe look for some commentary. If you have a general subject area, start with secondary sources - they will refer to the relevant acts and cases, which you can then find and read. Either way, expect to go round in circles a bit. Legal literature can be confusing so the bottom line, as always: just ask. At the Law Library Desk.

secondary sources

Secondary sources are things that are written about the law, like textbooks and articles. They are a great way to get an overview of an area of law, and to get specific references to legislation (acts/statutes/regulations) and cases. Law students beware: you need to find and cite the law. So if you use secondary sources, keep on going until you get the law itself, in the primary sources, and work with that. See the attached guide to secondary sources for law for more tips.


Textbooks give you an overview of the law, plus references to relevant primary material i.e. statutes and case law.  You will need to find and read the statutes and case law; and then check for any developments, especially new cases.


Articles are particularly good for recent and/or controversial topics. If you already have a reference to a particular article, search the library catalogue for the title of the journal that contains the article. If you are looking for articles by subject, start with an index.

Laws of New Zealand

Laws of New Zealand (LONZ) is an encyclopedia of NZ law - essentially a huge textbook arranged alphabetically by topic. The online version has live links to legislation and cases. You can search it like a database or browse it like a textbook. If you prefer print, you'll find Laws of New Zealand in the Law Library at KG351 LD51.

primary sources

Primary sources of law contain the law itself. So, statutes and cases; also regulations and treaties.


Legislation (also known as acts or statutes) is the most obvious source of law. You'll probably want to find the current law - online sources are good for that. You may want to find cases on a section of an act. The Brookers statutes database is good for that. You may want to find the bills and parliamentary debates that preceded an act. Law Library staff are good for that, as is the parliamentary website:

case law

Case law is also primary material - it is judge-made law. Not all cases are of equal value so look for authority  from the higher courts.

Library staff

OK so we're not legal literature but we are really useful. You can find us in the Law Library on the 8th floor of the Richardson Building; phone us on 479-8837; email us at