Welcome and welcome back!

Hello, and if this is your first time visiting the Law Librarian Blog, we’re glad you made it! This is where we  post updates about training, resources, library access and anything else we think you might need to know. We hope you’ll find the blog a useful place throughout the year.

So welcome week has come and gone already and we’re straight into Week One of teaching. We’ve been busy running induction sessions for student at all levels but don’t worry if you missed out, recordings of all online sessions have been uploaded to our Media Hopper channel:

There’s information about what’s available in the library and what we have online access to listed in DiscoverEd, which you can find here:

And finally, some other resources that can help you get started with legal research:

We completely understand the first few weeks of a new academic year are swamped with information, and it’s probable that you’ll have too much to take in for now. However if you bookmark this page or these resources we hope they’ll be useful when you need them. If you have questions please feel free to get in touch at any time by leaving a comment or emailing us directly: law.librarian@ed.ac.uk.

Using modules in LexisPSL

This summer we’ve increased the number of modules we have access to in LexisPSL due to student demand! Students and staff can now view all the practitioner advice and notes in each of the following areas:

  • Banking & Finance
  • Commercial
  • Corporate
  • Dispute Resolution
  • Employment
  • Private Client
  • Property
  • Restructuring & Insolvency

We find that the materials on PSL are particularly helpful for our Diploma students, but all staff and students can view what’s included by following these simple steps:

  1. Visit the Law Databases page, and scroll down to find the link for LexisPSL.
  2. If prompted, log in using the link that says ‘use academic sign in’ and then select UK Access Management Federation. Select University of Edinburgh from the list, accept the terms and conditions, and if necessary log in using your UUN.
  3. You will arrive at the LexisPSL homepage in the Banking & Finance module. Use the dropdown arrows next to the title of the module to select which module you would like to view. This is highlighted in green in the image below. NOTE: we have access to all the modules with a grey tick next to them.

The Lexis platforms for PSL and Lexis Library will be changing as of September; we will provide further instructions and demo videos on how to access these resources in the first weeks of the 2022-2023 academic year. Look out for information on training and induction sessions from the UG and PG offices in September, or contact us if you have questions in the mean time.

American Prison Newspapers, 1800-2020: Voices from the Inside

The library has access to a new collection from JSTOR.

Image of books stacked on a small table in the foreground on the mezzanine of the Law Library, looking out across a room full of students studying in the Senate Room (out of focus).

Books stacked on a table on the Law Library mezzanine. Photo by Sam Stills, copyright University of Edinburgh.

American Prison Newspapers, 1800-2020: Voices from the Inside.

The first newspaper published within a prison by an incarcerated person was Forlorn Hope, in 1800. Since then more than 450 newspapers from U.S. prisons have been published. Some are still in publication today such as Angolite and the San Quentin News. 

This collection brings together hundreds of these periodicals from across the US into one collection. Representing various institutions there is special attention on women-only institutions.

The collection is open access and can be accessed via the A-Z list of databases.

 

 

Ridicule and research support: Library Twitter strikes back!

Library and research branches of Twitter were outraged recently when two American Law students published a paper in the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy relating to abortion rights. The anger centred around the hypothesis that because the students didn’t find any historical literature relating to the term ‘abortion’ in their searches, that abortions simply didn’t exist in American history.

Tweet from Jacqueline Antonovich which reads: Fun story: These two law students published a paper about how they typed in the word "abortion" in a primary source database, didn't find much, and therefore conclude that "Founding Era Americans" didn't really know what abortions were and it was synonymous with miscarriage.

The thread of tweets goes on to explain that the furore surrounding this published paper is not that there was an investigation into historical abortions (which is topical worldwide since the recent overturn of the US Roe V Wade case), but that the flawed methodology was passed through teams of reviewers and editors and allowed to be published. Jacqueline Antonovich goes on to cite an article by Dr Lauren MacIvor Thompson published in the New York Times in 2019 entitled ‘Women have always had abortions’. (This article is behind a paywall but staff and students at the University of Edinburgh can read it in full using some of the news databases that the Library subscribes to.)

Aside from there being an entire school of academic research dedicated to the history of birth control rights, you may be wondering ‘what did those students actually do wrong?’ Dr Gillian Frank (@1gillianfrank1) provides some guidance in his tweets:

Fun fact: Just because you don’t find evidence in one database when you type in the word “abortion,” doesn’t mean a practice didn’t exist. Better historical questions are: Am I using the right keywords? Under what conditions could matters relating to abortion be spoken about?

Ronit Stahl (@ronitstahl) agreed:

And from there, ask questions like *Who* would be talking about this? Who would *write* about this? What *kinds* of documents/sources might include mention of this? *Where* might we find those sources? *How* do we think about/interpret silences?

More information about how to critically assess a search like this can be found by reading through Dr Frank’s twitter thread. Twitter can be an excellent tool for sharing resources and promoting discussion. This example is not only relevant because of the current news cycle but also because awareness of the importance of interrogating research methodologies rigorously is crucial if you are to publish well respected pieces of research.

Consider the bias in all your sources.

  • What power structures led to this work being published?
  • Who is speaking and why is their viewpoint important?
  • Who is missing from the conversation?
  • If there is a solitary viewpoint, why is this one in focus?

Librarians talk about bias quite often when discussing critical information skills with students and staff, because we want to be sure that the inferences you make from your source material are sound and fully considered. The Academic Support Librarian team have recently been working with one of our student interns to produce an online resource to help students to expand their searches and diversify their reading, due to be published this summer. We’ve also been crafting a toolbox to help our academic staff colleagues start conversations about including a wider range of resources in their core reading lists. Watch out for more news of both of these going live on the ASL blog.

In the mean time, if you’re struggling with your research and would like some advice on more robust search methodologies, you can contact the Law Librarians by email: law.librarian@ed.ac.uk, or any of our colleagues from the ASL team using the contact information on the ASL by subject area page. Although classes and exams are finished, we are around all summer so please contact us to make an appointment!

Dissertation Support

At this time of year many students are finishing their dissertations. There are a few places where students can get some advice and support on this in relation to library resources:

  • Law Librarian Resources Media Hopper Channel: We have collated several videos that cover using legal databases and also referencing.
  • Law Subject Guide: This collates all the useful legal resources that the library has in one guide. With links out to useful resources it also has a section on referencing.
  • List of Legal related databases: This list collates resources that students could find useful for their studies. It helps to distill ones that relate to this subject area- however if the research spans other topics then looking through the lists for those areas could also offer useful resources. If you are not sure which database will help then take some time to look at the descriptions.
  • LibSmart II Legal Module: This short online module offers information and advice on finding legal resources.
  • Contacting the Academic Support Librarians who support the Law School: You can contact us on Law.Librarian@ed.ac.uk .

Other help and advice:

The Institute for Academic Development have resources which offer assistance to students undertaking their dissertations.

 

 

Roe v Wade, or how to find international resources

A scanned photo of the original black and white photograph taken by Lorie Shaull at the Supreme Court. Norma McCorvey, left, who was Jane Roe in the 1973 Roe v. Wade case, stands with her attorney, Gloria Allred, outside the Supreme Court in April 1989. They hold a circular sign that says 'Keep Abortion Legal'.

Norma McCorvey, left, who was Jane Roe in the 1973 Roe v. Wade case, with her attorney, Gloria Allred, outside the Supreme Court in April 1989, where the Court heard arguments in a case that could have overturned the Roe v. Wade decision. [Photo by Lorie Shaull, CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons]

If you’ve been online over the past few days it is likely you’ll have heard about the leaked majority draft from SCOTUS (Supreme Court of the United States) which suggests that landmark case Roe v Wade may about to be overturned. This news comes from Politico, a political news company based in the USA.

If you are interested in the outcome of this draft, you may be interested in finding reputable sources for American legal information. Fortunately we have access to several.

In the UK the Act to amend and clarify the law relating to termination of pregnancy by registered medical practitioners came into force in 1967. It is referred to as The Abortion Act 1967, and the full text can be viewed on Westlaw.

Don’t forget that when viewing legislation on Westlaw it is possible to view amendments and previous versions of Acts by using the navigational tools. In the below image you can see where to locate information about previous versions of this section. By clicking on each hyperlinked version title you will see the text of the Act as it was when each version was in force.

Snapshot of a page of legislation from Westlaw UK. A red box highlights the area towards the bottom right of the page, showing that this section is version five of five, and listing the timeline for previous versions and the dates each was in force.

If you have any questions about finding legislation or reputable law sources for your research you can contact us on law.librarian@ed.ac.uk at any time to arrange an appointment with one of us. We’d love to hear about your research and help you find academic resources for your work.

Getting resources not available in the Law Library Collections

Image of books stacked on a small table in the foreground on the mezzanine of the Law Library, looking out across a room full of students studying in the Senate Room (out of focus).

Books stacked on a table on the Law Library mezzanine. Photo by Sam Stills, copyright University of Edinburgh.

We often get asked by students how they get access to a particular item that we do not have in the Law Library collection. So here are a few ideas about how and where to get access!

Online or in print?

Some items are available both online and in print, others are only available in one format. It is worthwhile searching to see if the item is available in another format.

It’s useful to check on the databases (especially Westlaw, Lexis and HeinOnline) to see if we have online access. Although some material from these databases is added to DiscoverEd- not everything is!

Some print copies of key texts are in other libraries across the university (as well as the law library) so it may be that the item you want is available in another location.

  • For items outside the central area you can place a hold and collect them centrally.
  • For items held in the central area you need to visit the holding library and borrow from there.

We do not add all print journal article details to DiscoverEd, so if you cannot find the article online then it’s worthwhile looking to see if we hold the print journal.

Scan and Deliver

If you cannot come on to campus (you are studying online or perhaps self-isolating) then you can request a scan of a book chapter or journal article be emailed to you. There are limits (due to copyright law and if it has been requested previously) but the service has been well used during lockdown periods.

The library does not post out books to users, so if you want a full print book you would need to come in and borrow the item. Full detail of the service are at:

Interlibrary loans

Interlibrary loans (ILLs) are where you request an item and we see if we can borrow it on your behalf from a partner library. On campus students can request journal articles and book chapter scans and also print books (which will be collectable from a campus library). Online students can request book chapter scans and journal articles.

For journal articles and book chapters we request a scan and send it via email. There is a limit per academic year about how many you can request, but usually the amount is sufficient. The library does not post out books to users. Full detail are at:

Borrowing locally from another library

If you are living in/near Edinburgh then joining the National Library of Scotland might be an option. The National Library has access to the Advocates Library collection, which is an extensive legal collection.  Full details of how to join are at:

Requesting a purchase for the library

Students can request that the Library purchases an book for research or study. The Request a Book scheme (RaB) has been running for several years and the majority of the items requested have been purchased. Library staff may get back in touch with questions or suggestions depending on the item and the cost, but more often than not items are purchased. Full details are at:

If there is a journal that you think the library should get then contact us on law.librarian@ed.ac.uk to chat it over.

More details on each of these services and more are available on the Library webpages:

True crime podcasts: finding the real story in law reports

If you listen to true crime podcasts you may recently have heard Bad People (BBC Sounds) report on the story of little Helen Priestley, a child from Aberdeen who was killed in 1934 in a case famously referred to as the ‘Aberdeen Sack Murder’. The evidence from this case was analysed and presented in part by Dr Sydney Smith, Regius Professor of Forensic Medicine at the University of Edinburgh and a forefather of forensic pathology, who used bacteria from vomit and hairs found inside a sack to identify the suspect Jeannie Donald. The jury deliberated for only 18 minutes before returning a guilty verdict. This made Mrs Donald one of the first people in the world to be convicted on the basis of forensic evidence.

Digitised version of the Daily Record front page from July 1934. Headline reads 'Woman condemned to hang: Jurywomen weep at sack trial verdict'. Photographs of Helen Priestly (victim, aged 8) and Jeannie Donald (accused) feature below the headline.

Image of Daily Record newspaper dated Tuesday 24th July 1934.

Although there are some sources online to back up the podcast’s story (such as from an article on Aberdeen Live, or an entry which might be useful for background reading on Murderpedia), as a librarian with a world of Scottish legal resources at my fingertips I felt it was important to verify the reporting of the story with good academic resources. I was particularly interested in how the case was reported in Justiciary Cases, however when searching Westlaw I found that access to the archive of material online from 1934/1935 is incomplete. If I were on-campus I’d be able to visit the Law Library to find the item in print, and even though I’m working remotely I could request scans via the Scan & Deliver service, however as this is just out of interest and not for research I thought I’d persevere online. Not to be deterred, I decided to try my luck with HeinOnline as I know it provides good access to many historical resources for Scots Law.

When I clicked through to Hein’s Scottish Legal History section and searched for ‘Jeannie Donald’ in the text box the first article of commentary I found was by William Roughead Juridical Review 46 Jurid. Rev. (1934). While skimming through the case I began to wonder if there was a market for significant crime reports being read aloud as audiobooks rather than podcasts, as Roughead’s analysis of the case made for engaging reading!

MURDER has a magic of its own, its peculiar alchemy.
Touched by that crimson wand things base and
sordid, things ugly and of ill report, are transformed into
matters wondrous, weird, and tragical. Dull streets
become fraught with mystery, commonplace dwellings
assume a sinister aspect, everyone concerned, howsoever
plain and ordinary, is invested with a new value and
importance as the red light falls upon each.

Although I couldn’t locate more information from Session Cases or another legal report, the 46 pages of Roughead’s account certainly provided a great deal of detail. I also found from searching online that a PhD student in Manchester used Sydney Smith’s writing up of the case from 1940 in the Police Journal 13, no.3 (1940): 273-87 as part of his thesis, and so was able to find further analysis of the case in that way. (Please note: The Police Journal is currently outside our subscription but if relevant for research it would be possible for the library to secure access using the Interlibrary Loan service.).

If you’re struggling to find good academic resources related to a case or legislation, you may find the following resources to be helpful:

If you feel that you’re familiar with these resources but need a bit more guidance, why not book a one-to-one appointment with a law librarian. We offer bespoke 30 minute appointments to help you with your area of study; simply book the date and time that works best for you using the MyEd booking link. A week before the appointment date we will contact you to ask for information about your query or area of interest, and then we will arrange either a Teams call or a location to meet in person.

If the appointment times listed don’t suit or you have any queries you’d like email assistance with, please contact us on law.librarian@ed.ac.uk.

New resources: Cambridge University Press Etextbooks

We like to keep our staff and students updated on any new items we have access to in the library. This month we bring news of several ebooks which have been added to our collection from Cambridge University Press:

Cover of Contract Law book    Cover of Foundations of taxation law book   Cover of Public international law book   

If you’d like to explore our collection further you can use DiscoverEd to search for books that interest you. A guide to using DiscoverEd can be found here, or alternatively there’s a video on searching here.

If we don’t have what you’re looking for, you could request new materials for our library using the Student Request A Book (RAB) form here, or if you are a member of staff you can use the CAHSS form to request materials for your research.

Equity, Diversity & Inclusion resources in Law

This month the Academic Support Librarian team are highlighting resources linked to Equity, Diversity & Inclusion in the areas of Law and Social and Political Science. You may be aware that Justice Week 2022 is nearly upon us (28th February to 4th March), and we thought this would be an excellent time to shine a light on a number of legal materials which are free to access, and therefore help to make the understanding of law more accessible to a greater number of people. We list several useful resources on the Law subject guide under ‘More Legal Resources’, including:

  • Free legal dictionaries
  • Links to Scottish, UK and European court websites
  • Links to legal regulatory and advisory bodies
  • Links to resources that offer free case details e.g. BAILII
  • Human Rights – free databases from UN and IJRC

The University subscribes to even more databases which offer staff and students additional access to support their study and research. You can find these by visiting our Law Databases page:

  • Jutastat – containing legal content from Africa
  • Slavery and the Law – a collection of petitions on race, slavery and free blacks submitted to American state legislatures and county courthouses 1775-1867
  • China Law Info– also known as Beida fabao
  • Making of Modern Law: Legal Treatises, 1800- 1926 – the world’s most comprehensive full-text collection of British Commonwealth and American legal treatises from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries
  • Proquest Law Sources via the History Vault Platform – including African American Police League Records, 1961-1988, Law and Society since the Civil War

You may also be interested in our short video (9 minutes) which demonstrates how to access international legal resources via library services online.:

Thumbnail of the opening slide of the 'Finding International Legal resources via the University Library' presentation video

Video: Finding International Legal resources via the University Library

As well as databases we have some great books and eBooks including:

We hope this will inspire you to explore the library’s collections further when considering Equity, Diversity and Inclusion themes – so now over to you to take a look!