Research Guides @ Westminster Law Library

Students conducting legal research, whether for a class or a work assignment, frequently are asked to research complex problems which may require them to use a new resource or use a known resource in a different way than usual.  While there’s a wealth of information available in print and online (including free resources), if you are not aware of a tool or how to use it to conduct effective research, this can make locating and using the needed information much more challenging.

To help make it easier for students to conduct research, the Westminster Law Library has created research guides on a variety of different subjects.  The library’s research guides easily can be accessed through the links provided on the library homepage or by bookmarking libguides.law.du.edu.

 

Screen shot of Westminster Law Library Main Page highlighting the web links to our research guides page.

 

 

The research guides homepage provides many different ways to search for information related to your specific topic.

 

Screen shot of the research guides homepage highlighting the ability to search guides by subject area.

 

These topic-specific research guides can include links to relevant databases, free sites, and print publications, descriptions of resources, discussions of research strategies, and/or tutorials demonstrating how effectively research using a particular product.

 

Example research guide showing navigation buttons and a sample tutorial.

 

While we try to create research guides relevant to areas of interest to our faculty and students, we may not yet have published one in the particular subject area you need to research.  Since the LibGuides platform is employed by many law schools throughout the country, you can use a search engine to try and locate a guide produced by another institution–just search your topic and “LibGuides.”  Also, if our law library does not have a research guide on the subject and you think it is a topic that is relevant to our law students, please let us know by emailing us at refdesk@law.du.edu.

Welcome New Students! 1L Resources Guide

The Westminster Law Library would like to welcome all the new students who will be joining the Sturm College of Law this year.  We hope that you will enjoy your time here and learn the knowledge and skills you need to succeed academically and professionally.

The library has prepared a resource guide specifically tailored to helping First-Year students hit the ground running.

http://libguides.law.du.edu/1LGuide

It contains a lot of valuable information that should help get you oriented to the library and its resources.

If you have any questions, please feel free to speak to one of our knowledgeable reference librarians or email us at refdesk@law.du.edu

Law360 – Legal News Resource

Students using Lexis Advance may have noticed the Law360 box located on the homepage, but encountered a log-in screen when trying to find out what is this resource.  While Law360 previously could be accessed through Lexis’ search bar, it is only in the past few months that its content can be browsed and searched by students through the main Law360 interface (select the Law360 icon highlighted below).

 

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This link will take you to Law360’s main page where recent important legal news, news and analysis organized by practice area, and other search options are available.  Students can use the left-hand navigation bar to view content related to a specific area of law.

 

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For example, say you were really interested in technology and the law, there’s a page devoted solely to that topic.  Not only does the Technology page provide current awareness information about the subject, it also includes expert analysis by practitioners with significant experience in that field.

 

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Some other ways to search Law360 content include the ubiquitous search bar and Advanced Search features.  If you select the Advanced Search link, you can search content by Industry, Company, Law Firm, and Government Agency.  While our Law360 subscription does include New and Expert Analysis, it does not include Case access.  To access cases, you will need to locate them on Lexis Advance or other research platforms.

 

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Another useful way to access Law360 content is by selecting the highlighted icon shown below which will display an additional search menu.  In addition to providing access to legal content by practice area, students also can research firm-related information and even search for legal jobs.

 

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Have questions about Law360, library resources, or conducting legal research?  Please feel free to contact any of the library’s helpful reference librarians or email us at refdesk@law.du.edu.

New Conflict Resolution Research Guide

October is Conflict Resolution Month in Colorado!

Conflict results from differences in interests and behavior and conflict resolution refers to the means by which conflict is ended. In the legal profession, conflicts are most commonly referred to as “disputes” and conflict resolution is often known as “dispute resolution.” There are quite a number of conflict resolution processes including war, voting, and avoidance (withdrawal from relationship). However, legal professionals are mostly concerned with adjudicative dispute resolution processes (i.e., litigation and arbitration), conciliatory dispute resolution processes (i.e., negotiation, mediation, and collaborative law), and dispute prevention.

In Colorado, Conflict Resolution Month is celebrated every October. And this year is the 10th Anniversary! There have been many events held throughout the month in the state and here at the University of Denver. You can read about these events and find many resources on conflict resolution at
http://conflictresolutionmonth.org/ and at
https://www.portfolio.du.edu/conflictresolutionmonth.

In honor of Conflict Resolution Month, the Westminster Law Library has compiled a resource and information guide on Conflict Resolution and the Law. While there are many conflict resolution processes, including war and voting, this resource guide focuses on the various forms of conflict resolution within the legal realm. You can view the guide at http://libguides.law.du.edu/conflictresolution.

Thank you to our Reference Assistant Katharine Hales for creating this research guide and authoring this blog post!

The Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine

The Internet—it revolutionized the creation and dissemination of information.  The sheer dominance of the internet in our daily lives means that so much content can be located online for free if the user knows where to look.  While so much material is available online, law students occasionally run into a research problem where they need to locate a specific document or web page, but that item is no longer available on the website.

While various websites do archive older content, other websites do not maintain an archiving policy and simply may choose to replace an older version of a document with the newer version (i.e. a 2012 annual report may be replaced by the 2013 version of that report) or may opt to outright delete a particular page.  This lack of archiving can prove extremely problematic when the researcher needs to access born-digital content—content which only ever existed online.  This issue has very real implications for law students conducting research.  Students may need to locate and read these materials for a variety of different reasons which includes: work performed for employers or clients; writing papers for classes or articles for law journals; and law journal cite-checking.  Now if this content is no longer available on a particular website, what is a student to do?

Thankfully, all hope is not lost.  A nonprofit entity known as the Internet Archive, among several other services, has “crawled” many websites over the past several years and maintains a searchable database, called the Wayback Machine, which lets users view a particular webpage as it existed at some specified previous point in time.  Just paste the appropriate web address into the Wayback Machine’s search bar and it will list all the various dates on which that particular page was archived.

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If you select one of the “blue circles,” for example February 15, 2012, you can view the website and its content as it looked on that particular date.

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It is important to note that the Internet Archive does possess certain limitations.  As you may have noticed from the above example, many websites are not archived on a daily basis and only may be archived on an inconsistent basis.  Additionally, even when webpages are archived, not all content on that page may have been archived.  Finally, as is the case with other online resources, the archive only extends so far back in time (in the above example, the earliest archive date was in 2007).

That being said, the Wayback Machine is an invaluable tool for attempting to retrieve online content which otherwise may have been lost.  If you have questions or need help using the Wayback Machine or conducting any other research, you can stop by the Reference Desk and speak with one of our friendly, experienced law librarians or email us at refdesk@law.du.edu.

WestlawNext – Advanced Search Features

Online platforms are fantastic tools for conducting legal research. They make a wealth of content readily accessible to students working on papers and projects. However, this massive amount of content can prove to be a double-edged sword—the documents you need might become buried under a mound of less useful or irrelevant results. That being said, there exist many different techniques to improve the quality of search results. One particularly useful search tool located on WestlawNext may have escaped your attention because it does not stand out among all the other hyperlinks listed on the main page. However, if you look directly to the right of the search bar button, you will see this small gray “advanced” link.

 

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Users who select the Advanced Search option will be greeted with many different tools designed to improve search result quality. Three extremely useful tools for crafting more sophisticated searches are the “Document Fields,” “Term Frequency,” and “Connectors and Expanders.”

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In order to take full advantage of the advanced search features, it is important to understand how the available search options directly relate to the underlying content being searched. If you selected the “advanced” link on the main page without searching within a specific database (i.e. cases, statutes, secondary sources), there will be limited Document Fields search options. The reason for this limitation is that the various Document Fields search options are tailored to the specific content being searched.

As an example, if you selected the Cases database and performed an advanced search, the Documents Field would be populated with options specifically focused on Case Law such as “Party Name.” The same would be true if you conducted an advanced search within Secondary Source content. Selecting the Secondary Sources hyperlink on Westlaw’s main page will allow you to search just Secondary Source content. You will know that you are searching Secondary Sources, and only Secondary Source material, by the light-blue box located directly above the search bar. Users can target their Secondary Source search even further by selecting specific content (i.e. Law Reviews & Journals).

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You will know that you are searching Secondary Sources, and only Secondary Source material, by the light-blue box located directly above the search bar. Users can target their Secondary Source search even further by selecting specific content (i.e. Law Reviews & Journals).

Selecting advanced Search while in Secondary Sources, or the more focused Law Reviews & Journals, database provides Document Fields search options tailored to these Secondary Sources such as document Title and Author.

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Performing a Title search in Secondary Source content represents an extremely effective way to locate highly-relevant legal analysis. If your keywords appear in the document’s title, there’s a strong chance that that publication will provide significant legal analysis about your subject.

Another valuable option for boosting result relevancy is the Term Frequency option. This function allows users to require that a word, phrase, or multiple words and/or phrases appear a minimum number of times within a document. The rationale behind employing Term Frequency centers around the premise that the more frequently a word/phrase appears within a document, the more likely that the document will devote substantial discussion to the topic as opposed to containing only a brief mention.

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To perform a Term Frequency search, simply input your search terms into the “Find documents that have” field(s), select the Term Frequency link, enter the minimum amount of times (ATLEAST) you want that word/phrase to appear in the document (5-10 occurrences is a good range), and check the box next to that word/phrase.

Finally, while many students employ basic Boolean language to perform searches (and, or, not), there exist more precise options which help specify a physical relationship between two words/phrases. These operators which are called “Proximity Connectors” require that the two words/phrases appear within a designated physical distance from each other.

 

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The three main proximity connectors are “/p” within the same paragraph, “/s” within the same sentence, and “/n” within a specified number of words where “n” is replaced by the number (i.e. /3).

As you can see, there exist many useful advanced search options which help boost relevant search results. While this blog post focused on Westlaw, Lexis employs very similar functionality.

Need help using advanced search features to craft more effective searches or help with any other legal research questions? Stop by the Reference Desk and speak with one of our friendly, experienced law librarians or email us at refdesk@law.du.edu.

Secondary Sources, Research Guides, and the Georgetown Treatise Finder

As law librarians, we try to emphasis to law students the value of beginning their legal research using Secondary Sources—especially for first year students who lack experience locating and analyzing legal material. When talking to students who have incorporated Secondary Sources into their research strategy, we hear how much easier it made the legal research process and saved them a considerable amount of time and frustration.

Now this article has referenced the term “Secondary Sources” a few times, but exactly what are these resources? These publications provide substantive analysis about a particular area of law or a narrower topic. As an undergraduate or graduate law student, if you were required to complete a research project using topical research books and/or articles, you already possess experience using these types of resources—just outside the legal context.

Secondary Sources serve as a great starting point to learning about an area of law and the legal issues involved—they help students build that necessary conceptual framework needed to analyze Primary Legal Material.  While Primary Law may be another term that is unfamiliar to students, this is simply an umbrella term covering the actual Constitutional, Statutory, Regulatory, and Case Law that students already read, interpret, and apply.  In addition to providing legal analysis, these Secondary Sources contain legal citations to actual Primary Law dealing with that topic/issue.  Secondary Sources really can save students a considerable amount of time when developing an understanding of the law and finding those useful cases.

One particularly useful type of Secondary Source is the Treatise. Treatises are the legal equivalent of the single/multi-volume research publications students probably encountered when conducting undergraduate research. The logical, topical structure of these publications really help students develop a conceptual framework about how different aspects of an area of law fit together while providing students with relevant primary law citations addressing those particular issues. Many Treatises exist covering numerous areas of the law or focusing on more specific topics.  Since there are so many Treatises, how should students go about identifying these publications and where to find them?

Law Librarians across the country produce online research guides designed to help their various stakeholder groups navigate different aspects of the law, identify valuable resources, and explain how to use these publications. The Georgetown Treatise Finder is one such guide. Georgetown Law Librarians have compiled a list of major Treatises which are available in-print and online and organized them into over sixty areas of law. Need to do Constitutional, Water Law, Intellectual Property, or International legal research? The Georgetown Treatise Finder can help students track down a particularly useful Treatise publication and where it can be accessed (most Secondary Sources are exclusive to one online legal research platform).

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Remember that there are many Law Librarians who are creating content and meeting with students to help each one of them become better researchers. If you have questions or need research help, stop by the Reference Desk and speak with one of our friendly, experienced law librarians or email us at refdesk@law.du.edu.

HeinOnline – Comprehensive Law Review/Journal Resource

Many students stop by the Reference Desk with a single question, “I’m trying to locate this law review/journal article, but I can’t find it on Lexis or Westlaw.”  What many law students don’t realize is that the law review/journal collections on these subscription platforms are not comprehensive—for many publications the article collections date back only to the 1980s-90s.  What are students to do if they cannot find the articles they need on Lexis or Westlaw?  Well the Westminster Law Library subscribes to a great database, known as HeinOnline, which provides access to many hard-to-find, older legal materials.  A highlight of the collection is the Law Journal Library which is the most comprehensive online source for law review and journal articles.  HeinOnline provides scanned PDFs of almost all U.S. law review/journal publications dating back to their first issue.

Students can access HeinOnline through the library’s A-Z Databases list located on the library’s Databases page (left-hand navigation bar).

For articles where the student already has the law review/journal citation, the easiest way to locate the article is via HeinOnline’s Citation Navigator.  Just input the citation and HeinOnline will retrieve the needed article.

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The article can be viewed directly from the HeinOnline interface, but it is easier to read the article if the PDF is downloaded.  To download a PDF, select the Adobe Acrobat symbol located above the document.

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HeinOnline provides the option to download the entire document or a specified page range within an individual document.

Another way to access articles through the HeinOnline interface is by browsing the law review/journal database.  Selecting the Law Journal Library link will take the user to an A-Z listing of all publications in the collection, which includes the years available through HeinOnline.

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Students wanting to search HeinOnline for articles relating to a specific topic, as opposed to a known citation, are advised to try using the University of Denver Main Library’s Summon search engine which searches the actual content for multiple subscription databases.  After running your search, you can use the filters located in the left-hand bar to focus your results on “journal articles” in the area of “law.”

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Need help locating law review/journal articles, how to use HeinOnline, or any other legal research questions?  Stop by the Reference Desk and speak with one of our friendly, experienced law librarians or email us at refdesk@law.du.edu.