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Environmental law: Legal Research


If you are on your first steps in the world of the legal research, this is your "go to" page. This page contains suggestions of some resources you could have a look at to know how to undertake research in the legal field. You'll be able to choose what type of sources might suits your needs better.

Introduction to the library

What's a call number and how to read it?

To shelve the Reference and the General collections, the Law Library is using the Library of Congress Classification. It is an alphanumeric classification system. In the LC classification the first serie of letters are used for the classes and subclasses. On its end, the first serie of numbers are used to represent specific subject within the class or subclass.

A classification scheme allows to shelve books about the same subject and, when it is relevant, the same jurisdiction close to each other. When you find a document of interest on the library's shelves, look around it. There are good chances that you'll find other books on the same subject or, at least, a very similar subject.

The classification scheme is used to create the call number. In the scheme used by the Law Library a call number is generally in this format: LC Class / Classification number / Cutter / Publication year. For instance in KE 4219 H634 2018, each element have a meaning :

  • KE (LC Class for Law of Canada)
  • 4219 (Classification number for Constitutional Law [of Canada])
  • H634 (Cutter)
  • 2018 (Year of publication)

In a library collection, the call number acts as the physical address of the document. Each call number is unique to a title. Should it appears several times (or seems to), it's most likely a title we have in several copies or a title published in several volumes. If the library acquire a new edition of a title it already has, it should be assigned the same call number except for the four digits of the "Year of publication"

I've found a book in the catalogue. How do I find it in the library?

When you find a book in printed format in the catalogue, you need to write down four pieces of information:

  1. Holding library: University of Ottawa has several libraries without counting the fact that we share our catalogue with St. Paul University. It is important to take note of which one owns the document you are looking for.
  2. Location: Once in the correct library, the location (collection) points to which section of the library you need to go.
  3. Call number: The "physical address" of the book within the collection.
  4. Availability: If the document is already borrowed, you may reserve it. If someone reserved it before you did, you'll be on a waiting list on a first come, first serve basis. Depending on the demand, it might take some time before you get the document.

Where to start?

Discovery tool (OMNI)

Omni allows you to search our catalogue and our databases simultaneously. In order to launch a search, enter your keywords in the search box. Use the filters on the left-hand side of the screen in order to limit the results by language, publication year, type of document, etc.


Click on the link to be redirected to the bibliographic record into the catalogue. You’ll get the physical location, the call number and the availability of the document.

Citing your sources

If you need to use a previous edition of the Canadian guide to uniform legal citation (McGill guide), it will have the same call number except for the last four numbers. These numbers refer to the publication year.

If you are in doubt, check with your professor to confirm which edition you have to use.

Citation management software

These software allow you to create a database (a list) of the sources your used and to create a first version of your bibliography. An example of such a software would be Zotero.

For more information, check out the research guide below or contact a member of the Brian Dickson Law Library's Research and reference service.