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Library Session


This guide is to accompany a recording shared by your instructor. The recording is approximately 60 minutes in length; I will be following the guide in order from top to bottom feel free to jump ahead! The recording will cover:

  • An example of brainstorming for ways to search for information about your topic
  • How to find legal information using CanLI
  • How to find case and case information using the Supreme Court of Canada website
  • How to find parliamentary information 
  • How to find secondary sources using the MRU Library and Google
  • Where to find citation information and help


  • You have been asked to write a 3000-word term paper from the list provided or based on a topic approved by your instructor.
  • You must apply, synthesize and cite a variety of appropriate resources including legislation, case law, parliamentary bills, debates, and secondary resources (books, articles, etc).
  • You have to cite your work and follow the formatting guidelines provided to you.

Questions to consider

  • Are you using the terminology that an expert in the field would use?
  • Is there more than one way to spell the word?
  • Are there any synonyms or other terms that could apply to your topic?

  Broad Topic/Region              

Synonyms (terms you could use with OR)

Additional Terms (terms you could use with AND)

Possible Search Strategy

Why is mandatory minimum sentencing outlined in Canadian legislation problematic in Canadian courts?




"judicial discretion"


judicial power"






"mandatory minimum"






"mandatory minimum"


"cruel and unusual"

"R v Lloyd"

"R v Smith

"R v Nur"


(proportionate, proportionality, proportional)

"racial disparity"




Canada AND "mandatory minimum sentencing" AND constitut*

"cruel and unusual" AND "s. 12" AND "mandatory minimum" 

"parliamentary authority" sentencing AND Canada








CanLII (The Canadian Legal Information Institute) is a freely available database powered and supported by the Federation of Law Societies of Canada.  Content focuses on Canadian primary law sources that include: 

  • Jurisprudence (Federal and Provincial case law, tribunal decisions)
  • Legislation (Federal and Provincial statutes and regulations)

You can also search CanLII for secondary law sources or legal commentary using CanLII Connects (case summaries and commentaries) and CanLII Docs (books, journals, articles, reports, and research papers).  Please note that this isn't an exhaustive database (there are other subscription databases with quite a bit more content and value-added features), but CanLII is a great start that is accessible to all Canadians. 

Searching CanLII

Elements of a Case

Once you click on the case link, look at the following features

Tip: How to cite this: R v Nur, 2015 SCC 15 OR R v Nur,  [2015 ]1 SCR 773

In text: (R v Nur, 2015 SCC 15 at para 3). 

Why am I seeing square brackets and different acronyms? 

Example: R. v. Nur, 2015 SCC 15, [2015] 1 SCR 773

  • This citation is telling us that the case name or style of cause is Regina (abbreviated) v Nur
  • The first citation is the neutral citation, assigned by the courts.  It means that Nur was the 15th case heard at the Supreme Court of Canada in 2015. 
  • The second citation is a parallel citation. Parallel citations are case reporter citations (where the case has been officially published in).  These citations are formatted a little differently.  Square brackets denote the year of publication, not the year the decision was rendered, so sometimes the years are different in case reporter citations.  For this example, Nur was published in 2015 in the 1st volume of the Supreme Court Reports on page 773.  

For the purposes of your writing, citing the neutral citation in McGill citation style is the most important. At MRU we don't subscribe to case reporters, and the only reporter in Canada available publicly is the Supreme Court Reports. It is best practice to cite the version in which you consulted. 

If you want to know more about what a legal acronym stands for, you can check using the Cardiff Index to Legal Abbreviations

The Supreme Court of Canada website contains a lot of information useful to the public about essentially anything related to the SCC (you can read about current SCC judges, case law, legislation, rules of court, media releases etc. etc.) 

Like CanLII, you can search for cases by the style of cause, citation, or number.  When the case comes up in a search, pay attention to some of the extra features...they can provide additional value that will be helpful to this course! Click on the case number link provided in the heading box.


By clicking on the Case Information link, you can then find resources available to your case, such as factums, leave to appeals, memoranda, and if it is a recent decision, you can even stream a recording. 


 summaries etc.  

Parliament of Canada Research Publications searches for government documents using Google.

LEGISInfo An essential research tool for finding information on legislation (bill) before Parliament.

ALL Legislation Table  Alberta Law Libraries is a provincial network of law libraries existing to provide research support and information services to the legal community and members of the public.

Constitutional Law of Canada Dr. Joseph Magnet (the University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law) has crafted this amazing one-stop resource that consolidates most Canadian Constitutional documents and resources in one place

The Constitutional Law Interactive blog managed by Osgoode Hall Law School (York) dedicated to Constitutional law discourse. 

Centre for Constitutional Studies Managed by the University of Alberta, the center publishes the Constitutional Forum and The Review of Constitutional Studies and also hosts an interactive blog.

Library Search

 **Please note that with the campus closure, the library is also closed with the exception of a select few study spaces and a computer lab that is accessible by card on the 1st floor.  You can request print material and other physical items in advance and pick them up curbside.  

Things to remember when using Library Search:

  1. Sign in to save searches, items, and to request materials.

  2. Use the pin icon to save books and articles. 

  3. Use the filters on the right. You will use Availability, Resource Type, and Date filters most often.

  4. Some items won't be available. You can request unavailable items using interlibrary loan.

  5. When viewing an item record, scroll down to the Get It or Full-Text section to get the item.

You can search in a way to combine or omit different terms by telling the search engine exactly what you want…this can help you save some time (and frustration!)

  • Use quotation marks to keep phrases together - "mandatory minimum sentencing"

  • Use  AND to combine search terms - "mandatory minimum" AND Canada

  • Use OR to connect two or more similar terms - Constitution OR Charter

  • Use wild cards to substitute a letter or suffix with a symbol - sentenc*

Search Google Scholar

Google Scholar is another great way to find peer-reviewed/scholarly material. Google scholar has a nifty citation chaining function.  The Cited by function will forward you to indexed scholarly material that has cited an article that you may be interested in.  The Related Articles link will direct you to similar articles that may have the same metadata or keywords. 

The Advanced Search is found by clicking the menu icon (top left).
Besides providing links to articles in MRU databases, Google Scholar links to online repositories that contain articles the author has been allowed to upload. and ResearchGate are among the repositories searched by Google Scholar.

By clicking on the Settings icon, you can select library links to show library access for up to 5 libraries (type in Mount Royal and click on save).  If you are logged into MRU library, links should automatically populate if you are running a Google search in another window. 

Note: Google uses different commands: ~; -; +; but AND/OR also works

If you are searching Google (not Google Scholar), you can also limit your search to show specific websites. Eg:

  • (United Nations)
  • site: (Government of Canada)
  • (United Nations Children's Fund)
  • (UNESCO)
  • (World Bank)
  • (World Trade Organization)
  • Cite Sources: Learn the correct way to cite sources by using these guides, tutorials, and videos.
  • Referencing Webinars: APA & MLA. Referencing Webinars are 75 minutes long.  Registration is required.
  • Online Appointments: Personalized online 30-minute appointments with a Learning Strategist.

Remember* APA does not provide guidance on citing Canadian legal documents. Always check with your instructor, but in other programs in instances of law, the Canadian Uniform Guide to Legal Citation (McGill Guide), 9th edition is applied. The following resources could help guide you:

Through an annual collaborative effort between the library, the CRJS department and Student Learning Services, the following guide is made available specific to students in the Criminal Justice degree program.  You will find examples of how to cite legislation, case law, government information, statistics, and more! Please find a link to the electronic version below, or visit the reference desk in the library to borrow a hard copy. 


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Madelaine Vanderwerff

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