Know How

The blog of the Great Library at the Law Society of Ontario


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Free Legal Citation Guides

If you’re working remotely, you may be missing some of your trusted legal research tools and sources. We understand! Without access to the Great Library’s formidable print collection and a full slate of electronic resources, we law librarians are making do – being creative, resourceful and fully exploiting the best free legal information sources to provide research assistance.

Last week we covered free sources for finding free CPD (continuing professional development) articles. This week we’re sharing some tips on finding free legal citation resources.

If you don’t have a copy of the current edition of the McGill Guide (Canadian Guide to Legal Citation, 9th ed., Thomson Reuters, 2018) at hand or a subscription to the online version on Westlaw Next Canada, don’t despair.  You can still find guidance on how to properly cite that case, statute or text section you’re relying on.

Many Canadian university and law school libraries have created quick reference citation guides based on the current McGill Guide. These guides typically distill the rules in McGill to provide a clear explanation and plenty of examples to show you how to cite legal materials from cases to blogs.

Here’s a selection:

Like the McGill Guide itself, these online citation guides won’t cover everything. There will always be times when you’ll need to improvise.

When doing so, remember the two cardinal rules of legal citation: be kind to your reader (provide clear, complete and accurate information so they can find what you’re citing) and be consistent in your style and formatting.


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Legal Research Survival Guide, Part 8 –Deciphering Case Citations

Once you’ve mastered the art of deciphering case citations, you’ll find that what initially looked like a jumble of letters and numbers to you is actually very useful legal shorthand. A case citation, properly formatted, can tell you the names of the parties, year, jurisdiction, court level and where to find the decision, all at a glance.

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Legal Research Survival Guide, Part 4 – Following the Breadcrumbs: Source Notes and How to Use Them

With their jumble of letters, numbers and symbols, legal citations can give researchers quite the headache. While you may have already figured out how to navigate case citations, legislative citations are quite different and can seem even more confusing. One place you may come across legislative citations is in the source notes (or historical notes) found at the end of sections of consolidated law online or in printed statute and regulation revisions. This blog post will help you to decipher and interpret source notes found in statute consolidations.

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Know What You’re Looking For

Why is it useful to know the full name of law reports and their jurisdictions? Because you can find cases much more successfully if you look for them in the right places. You won’t find a US, UK, or Australian decision in an electronic resource if it doesn’t include US, UK, or Australian decisions. So it pays to know what you’re looking for. Continue reading


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Wikipedia and Legal Research

Wikipedia was launched this week seventeen years ago. Since its debut on January 15, 2001, the site has grown exponentially in size and popularity. The English language Wikipedia alone contains 5,548,706 articles and Wikipedia is currently ranked the world’s fifth-most-popular website. Its most viewed pages are those on Donald Trump, Star Wars, and various members of the British Royal Family (Source: Wikipedia). So what role, if any, can Wikipedia play in legal research? Continue reading


Square or Round?

There can be plenty of brackets and parentheses in legal citations. Yet, a case citation is incomplete unless it also includes the year of the decision. If a decision has a neutral citation, the year is already part of the citation and there are no brackets or parentheses to worry about, e.g., 2011 ONCA 55. That’s the easy part. Continue reading