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Researching your law dissertation: Home


This site has been designed to help you with researching for your law dissertation.  The focus is on how to identify and search for legal, academic and other good quality literature. The guide includes links to other resources that will further help you.

Plan your search

Before you begin your research, it is worth doing a bit of planning up front. Consider your research question and any objectives you have and the different search words (keywords) that relate to this. You can map these out in a way that helps you to carry out your searches and come up with different search strategies. Here is an example search table:

Keyword table
Radicalisation Higher Education Free speech
Terrorism HE Freedom of expression
Terrorist Education Freedoms
Prevent Duty Universities Rights
Prevention of Terrorism University Human Rights Act

From here you can develop meaningful search strategies e.g. Prevent Duty and Higher Education  /  Terrorism and Universities and Free speech

Google smart searching

Use Google to search for useful reports and documents but be selective. You can employ smart searching techniques to help make the most of this search engine, such as:

  • Filetype PDF (use this to limit your search to PDF reports)
  • (use this to limit your search to government documents)

You can use more than one filter at a time e.g. right to protest filetype pdf

Have a look at this video for more help with Google smart searching.

Legal research

Your dissertation will need to include the relevant legislation for your research topic. We have three main databases, which you should already be familiar with:

  • Law Trove (Legal textbooks)
  • Lexis (Legislation, legal journals, news etc. Updated for 2022)
  • Westlaw (Legislation, legal journals etc.)

There is some overlap with Westlaw and Lexis but they will contain some variations (for example, they will have different journals on them).

Make sure you are clear on how to navigate these properly and if you need any help, have a look at these videos.

Wider research

Depending on your topic, it may be appropriate to explore the databases more widely. For example, Proquest, Sage Journals, Taylor & Francis Online and Wiley Online, contain journals on a range of topics. Use these if your topic includes a wider social aspect. 

Useful Databases

Using NELSON to organise your reading


Use NELSON to carry out a broad search across the resources, particularly for books and journals. Sign-in with your University login to access the full-text and pin any items for later. Pinning is a great feature on NELSON because it means you can organise your reading for later. You can even label your pinned favourites, which will help with the writing up stage of your dissertation.


Understanding Academic Sources (15 minutes):

You will need to use good quality information to support your work. The following tutorial will help you to recognise different types of academic sources and their importance for research.

To work through the tutorial, use the arrows at the bottom right of the screen to progress through the tutorial. 

Going beyond the library

If you need anything we do not have in the library collections at the University of Northampton. please make use of Interlibrary Loans and the SCONUL Access scheme.

Academic Librarian

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Joanne Farmer

Other helpful resources