Monthly Archives: February 2012

Research Tips: Literature Review: Finding Books

Step 1: Key Terms

Use the ThomCat catalog, or WorldCat (  free access) to find a few good books. Look at the Subject headings in the record, (on Worldcat look in the Similar Items section) and add them to your search terms. Or use them to generate a specialized advanced search by including a subject term in your search.

 Step 2: Bibliography

Make a list of all of the books on ThomCat that you think are relevant (If you log in, you can make a list on ThomCat and export it. This way you do not have to type out the title etc. of each book individually). Then walk around the library and find the books. Often they will all be in the same place and then you can browse the shelves nearby for other relevant titles. Select a few books that are the most promising.

 Step 3: More Books

Find books not available in TJSL Library. If there are few or no books on your topic in our library, look for books on and on Google Books.

Step 4: Interlibrary Loan (ILL)

Ask librarian Hadas Livnat to request them for you from another library. Be sure to complete this stage of your research early so that the books have time to arrive in the mail from another institution. This can take over 2 weeks.

Research Tips: Literature Review: Finding Articles

Let’s begin with a helpful video tutorial that explains why you would want to conduct a literature review as the basis for your research paper.

To find everything written on a particular topic, you will want to use the LegalTrac database. This database contains citations to many articles that are not found on Westlaw and Lexis.

 Here is the process I recommend for finding all relevant articles on your topic:

 Step 1: Key Terms

Your search for news, blogs and magazine articles when figuring out your topic should have provided you with many key terms for searching. However, to see how articles on your topic are categorized by librarians, and to see the language used in scholarly articles may differ from that used in news reports, you will want to start by finding one good article on LegalTrac.

 Once you have found that article, you can look at the categories that LegalTrac associates with that article. They will be to the left of the page. Add these terms to your search terms.

 Step 2: Bibliography

Make a list of all of the citations to relevant articles that you found on LegalTrac

 Step 3: Find as many full-text articles as possible

Do searches for articles in the all law reviews databases on Westlaw and Lexis (they carry different journals) also if you need to do social science research, check JSTOR, Google Scholar  and the San Diego Public Library databases (you need an SDPL card to access the databases) . Add any new items that you find to the list of citations

 Step 4: HeinOnline

Look on HeinOnline for items that you found on LegalTrac but are unable to find in the full text databases mentioned above.  

Step 5: Interlibrary loan (ILL)

Ask Hadas Livnat at the library to request for you from another library,  any articles that you cannot find on HeinOnline or any of the previously mentioned databases. Be sure to do this early in the process as it can take over 2 weeks to get an item from another library

 The process is similar for finding relevant books.

Research Tips: Top five tips for selecting a paper topic

Right around now, many of you are trying to choose paper topics for your final papers or for law review. Once you have a topic, you will be doing preemption checks to ensure that no one else has written on your topic. You will also want to do a literature review  to find everything written on your topic.

Some people have come to get extra training in legal research to help with this paper writing process. Find the Legal Research Training page on TWEN and use the sign-up sheets to sign up for a training session. Email reference librarian Catherine Deane with any questions.

Here are my top five tips for finding a paper topic:

  1. Check to see if there is a Research Guide  on your topic that provides links to relevant news sources
  2. Know where the Databases  are on the TJSL Library Home Page, log in with your network ID and check to see if there are any BNA databases that cover your subject: Hint: Look for circuit splits eg in BNA United States Law Week  
  3. Check out ABA Blawgs  and read any frequently and recently updated blogs on your topic
  4. Check out reputable news sources such as: The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, NPR News
  5. Check out the websites of relevant organizations and look for recent reports, eg. United Nations, International Labor Organization, Amnesty International

Once you have selected a topic, you will want to find all relevant literature  on your topic. This is partly so that you  can make sure no one else has written exactly on your topic, and partly to have a body of literature to build on when you make your own argument.

Consider using a model like the Steven Toulmin Model   to analyze the articles and organize your argument.