Skip to Main Content


Guide to research sources for Canadian and BC law.

Books and e-books

'Secondary' sources: the best place to start your legal research

Legal books, journal articles, encyclopedias, and so on are called SECONDARY sources because they explain the primary law, they are not the law itself. Only legislation and cases are PRIMARY law.

Unless you are already familiar with a legal subject, a secondary source will save you hours of time trying to understand the basics, and identifying key cases and relevant legislation.

Excellent starting points:

Tools for background info

Dictionaries ... help you to understand specialized terms



Encyclopedias ... give you a basic understanding of the law and list key sources

"Legal encyclopedias contain a narrative summary of the law, supported by references to primary sources. A legal encyclopedia may be the fastest way for you to get a reasonably current summary of the law on a certain topic and to obtain references to relevant primary sources." (emphasis added)
SOURCE: The Canadian Legal Research and Writing Guide, 2018, section 3.2.1. 2018 CanLII Docs 161

How to find books on your legal topic

Excellent starting point:

Irwin Law publishes a great series of books written in plain English called Essentials of Canadian Law.

You can read all of these Irwin Law books online through the KPU Library! Look for a book in this series on the broad legal topic you are researching, and then read the chapter on your specific topic. Watch this video on How to Search for Irwin Law on vLex for more advanced search options

Use Summon to search *almost* the entire KPU library collection at one time! Find books, journal articles, videos, and more!

If you only want to find books in Summon ...

Once you have a list of items on your topic in Summon, use the FILTERS on the left menu to NARROW down your matches to Books/eBooks.

Search our Library catalogue for books, e-books and DVDs:


Not finding books on your topic?

1. Think more broadly

You may not find an entire book on a specific topic such as OCCUPIER'S LIABILITY, but you will find chapters on this topic in a book on the broader topic of TORT law.

2. Look at a list of recommended books in different areas of law

Check this list of scholarly legal texts on different topics. You can use the KPU Library catalogue. to see if we have the book.

The CriminalSource database includes over 15 scholarly texts; look in the Commentary section, under Texts and Annotations. You can search them all at once, or read specific titles.

Here are a few of the texts in CriminalSource:

Use the power of call numbers to find useful items on the shelf!

Call numbers are the letters and numbers that libraries use to organize books and other items on the shelf. Each item has a label attached to its 'spine' or side showing the call number. The call numbers are designed to group items on similar topics together. Once you find one good item, it pays to look for others on the shelves nearby.

Most legal materials have call numbers starting with the letter K. Here's a more detailed breakdown to help you zero in on specific areas:

KE 1-9450 Law of Canada

KE 919   Business law

KE 1232 Tort law

KE 2550 Media law

KE 4219 Constitutional law

KE 4381.5 Charter of Rights and Freedoms

KE 4422 Freedom of the press

KE 8809 Criminal law

KE 8839 Criminal law defences

KE 9260 Criminal law procedure

KE 9355 Criminal law sentences

KE 9445 Youth criminal law

KEB 1-599 Law of British Columbia


Legal resources on specific topics may be shelved in other areas.

All levels of government develop laws (or bylaws). They also create programs and services which they regularly evaluate, and conduct research. Reports from this work are available in a variety of ways. The KPU Library's Guide to Government Information lists some good search tools.

One handy tool is the Canadian Public Documents Collection (CPDC). It is especially strong for federal government publications, as well as reports from non-governmental agencies such as research institutes and 'think tanks'.

Searching for books at other libraries

Two excellent tools for searching other library collections:

1. Illume (formerly called Outlook Online):
  • searches most BC postsecondary and public libraries
Search BC libraries with Illume Catalogue:


Note: You can also search individual local and Canadian library catalogues.

2. WorldCat:
  • searches thousands of libraries around the world
Search for an item in libraries near you: >>

Getting books from other libraries

If KPU Library does not have a book that would like to borrow, you have two options:


Option 1: Let us borrow the book for you with our Interlibrary Loan service


Note: during the COVID-19 pandemic, some libraries are not lending items through interlibrary loan.

  • Fill out an interlibrary loan (ILL) request form, and we will search for the book at other Canadian libraries.
  • Allow 2 weeks for delivery to the KPU campus library of your choice.
  • Note: Loan periods for ILL books are generally much shorter that KPU Library's.
  • There is no charge to you for this service.


Option 2: Borrow it from another library yourself


Note: during the COVID-19 pandemic, check first whether the other library is open.

  • From a public library:
    • Public libraries in the Metro Vancouver area will issue free library cards to residents of the region.
  • From a postsecondary library:
    • As a KPU student, employee or faculty member, you can also get a free card for most other Canadian university and college libraries so that you can borrow books for yourself.
    • Before you go: See our guide on Borrowing Material from Other Academic Institutions for more details. You will need to get a special pass from the KPU Library in order to register for a free card at another postsecondary library.