Referencing, research: one-to-one appointments

Do you need help with your research? Have you got yourself into a muddle using legal resources online? Do you just need to know what you need to know?

Book a one-to-one meeting with our Law Librarian team to discuss your research issues or library problems. In previous one-to-ones we’ve helped students with:

  • search strategies
  • using our subscription databases
  • finding international case law
  • finding historical Scots material online (specifically the Institutional Writers)
  • referencing (specifically using OSCOLA)
  • setting up news alerts for cases or legislation

We arrange appointments once a fortnight using the MyEd booking system. Search for “Literature search clinic” and select the Law specific event, or search for “Law” and select provider group “IS Library and University Collections” to find all our Law related training. Future dates include:

  • 19th January
  • 9th February
  • 23rd February
  • 1st March
  • 15th March
  • 30th March
  • 13th April
  • 4th May

Please note: due to our current staffing situation these appointments are all on Wednesdays and Thursdays. If you require a different day please get in touch.

We release appointments approximately three weeks before each scheduled date. This semester we’re trialling a combination of online and in-person appointments so when you book feel free to contact us to discuss how you would prefer to meet. If you cannot see an available meeting slot that suits you please email law.librarian@ed.ac.uk and we will find a suitable time.

Meet your LexisNexis Student Associate for 2022/23!

You may have seen that we’ve featured LexisNexis quite a lot on the blog this semester, due to the launch of their new platform, Lexis+. We’ve provided a fair bit of information about how to access items and how to get further training, but one person we have yet to mention is your Student Associate, Olivia Riddell. Lexis employ Olivia to provide peer support for students at the University of Edinburgh who want to work with Lexis and use it for their studies or research. We had a quick word with her to ask her more about what her role entails:


Tell us a little bit about yourself! Who are you and what do you study at Edinburgh?Photo of Olivia, a person with long blonde hair who is smiling at the camera. Photo is shown in round frame.

My name is Olivia, and I am a fourth-year law student at Edinburgh. I am from the North of England but wanted to study at Edinburgh as a bid to broaden my horizons. It has been nice to experience the quieter life and scenery that Scotland offers before accessing work opportunities in the City.

Why did you apply to be the student representative for LexisNexis?

I wanted to have experience related to law. My previous experience working in retail taught me soft skills and resilience, but this role has truly developed other areas needed in a professional capacity such as marketing strategies, proactiveness and negotiations. This is especially necessary if students want to harness their skills in preparation for a role requiring good capacity of leadership and business relations. It also challenges me personally. For example, it has improved my confidence (in reaching out to students, and teaching sessions) and stretched my ability to form professional networks with students in the law school, and with faculty staff.

What do you think is the best feature that Lexis offers for students in the Law School?

The ability to type in key words and find related journal articles and added references for essays. It enables you to find related sources that have an affinity with your argument or essay title meaning your assignment will be much stronger based on accuracy and relevancy.

When students book a training session with you, what can they expect to get from the meeting?

There are different types of sessions. I will be organising certification sessions (Foundation and Advanced) which will enhance your professional profile and experience. These downloadable and professional certificates will make you stand out, and you can showcase these on LinkedIn. In addition, I will be running assignment training in December 2022 and Easter 2023 to ensure you know how to use LexisNexis to help in your upcoming assignments. In semester two, I will also be conducting commercial awareness sessions in 2023 to help with future internship and vacation scheme placement applications, and how you can access such material on the LexisNexis site.


You can reach Olivia by email with any queries or training requests: s1925406@ed.ac.uk

If you need help with any other databases or would like to discuss other available training please let the law librarian team know by email: law.librarian@ed.ac.uk.

BOO-lean operators

We know Hallowe’en was last week, but saw this on Twitter and it’s too good not to share! If you’ve ever wondered what library staff (and mathematicians and engineers and many other professions) talk about when they mention Boolean operators or logic gates, this handy infographic from @38mo1 may help!

A grid of three images across, two rows deep. Each image shows an example of Boolean searching/logic gates using halloween images of pumpkins and phrases to demonstrate. The first shows Trick OR Treat, two circles which overlap with the entire shape coloured. The second shows Trick AND Treat with just the overlapping area coloured. The third shows Trick XOR Treat with the area inside the circles which does not overlap coloured. The fourth shows Trick NOR Treat, with the area outside the circles and overlap coloured. The fifth shows Trick NAND Treat, with everything in the image apart from the overlapping area coloured. The sixth shows Trick XNOR Treat, which shows everything outside the circles plus the overlapping areas coloured but not the main body of each circle.

Traditionally search engines and databases used Boolean operators along with keywords to help you search more constructively. Some (like Google) now accept natural language searching, but many academic or technical databases still require you to search in this format.

For example, if you search on DiscoverEd:

  • “Property Law” OR Servitudes: 70,745 results.
  • “Property Law” NOT Servitudes: 57,500 results.
  • “Property Law” AND Servitudes: 154 results.

Those little connecting words can make all the difference!

For more help with searching, watch this short video (9 minutes) about Search Techniques on our Law Librarian Media Hopper Channel. Unfortunately pumpkins not included.

Lexis+ database training: LexisNexis Certification

You may remember last week we posted a reminder about the Lexis+ training we had scheduled. That training took place yesterday and those that attended found it very helpful, so we’re putting the recording and information about how to get certified with LexisNexis up here too.

LexisNexis offers four levels of certification for students in the UK – Foundation level for England and Wales, Foundation level for Scotland, Advanced level for England and Wales, Advanced level for Scotland. Our students can pick whichever is the most relevant for them, or complete all of them if they want to collect the set!

First, you’ll need to watch the Foundation level training video (recorded yesterday by Claire Black of Lexis UK). You can find that on our Media Hopper Channel or by clicking the image below.

Screencap of the paused training video, showing a demonstration of the Lexis+ platform.  Image links to video recording hosted on Media Hopper.

Next you will need to log in to Lexis+. The best way to do this is using the link on the Law databases page; it currently says ‘LexisLibrary’ but I’m in the process of getting that updated to Lexis+. If when you’re logged in you arrive at the screen that says ‘Nexis’ at the top of the page, click the nine dots in a square next to the Lexis logo, and you should be able to click ‘Lexis+ UK’ instead.

screengrab showing the nine dots arranged in a square which reveals a dropdown menu, with options for Lexis+ UK, Nexis, or Nexis Dossier.

Then Claire has provided the following instructions:

  1. Make sure you are logged in to Lexis+ through the University – you will need to use the site to answer the questions.
  2. In a new tab or window, access the LexisNexis Student Hub: https://www.lexisnexis.co.uk/law-students/overview.html
  3. Register your details – your choice whether to choose university or personal email. It gives you access thereafter if you need to retake the test or want to do other certifications. Course end date is the date you intend to graduate.
  4. Once registered, scroll down the page to where it says ‘Get Certified’ and choose Lexis+ UK Legal Research Certification (there is the option for the Practical Guidance one, but given access to practice areas can vary, it’s probably safer to stick to research)
  5. You will then see a page which lists 6 steps to being certified. Scroll past this to the bottom and there are 4 options: Foundation and Advanced Certifications for either England and Wales, or Scotland.
  6. You will then enter your email address (which allows you to come back later and will allow you to retake the test if necessary)
  7. 15 multiple choice questions which are completely randomised. 13/15 correct to pass. You must use Lexis+ to answer the questions.
  8. You can take the test as many times as you need to pass.
  9. Certificate will be emailed to you upon passing within 24 hours.

Our thanks to Claire and all at Lexis for making sure our students are well trained and well prepared for legal research! Good luck to anyone choosing to take one of the Certification tests. If you encounter any issues please let us know on law.librarian@ed.ac.uk.

Lexis+ database training: Thursday 20th October

We’ve got a training day for the new Lexis+ database coming up which we highly recommend for students of all levels. The new platform from Lexis replaces LexisLibrary and LexisPSL so it’s well worth getting to know, whether you’ll be using databases for assignments, dissertations, research or as a legal practitioner. In each of these sessions Lexis trainer Claire will take attendees through training and tips for using the platform at either foundation or advanced level.

If you book the 10.30am or 2pm slot you will also gain the chance to sit your Lexis Certification test, which means you will gain a certificate perfect to put on your CV – future employers will be impressed if you come to them with certified research skills!

Book using the links below or search for ‘Lexis+’ on the MyEd Events Booking system.

If you can’t make the sessions but still require help using the Lexis+ database, you can view our video (38 mins) recorded by Lexis trainer Claire specifically for our Diploma students. It provides a great all-round view of the database and where to find key items.

Please contact SarahLouise on law.librarian@ed.ac.uk if you have any questions or concerns about the live sessions or getting help with any of our databases.

Information skills throughout the year

If you read our last post, you’ll have heard all about the top information we like our students to have early in the semester; about inductions and key resources we want to make sure you can access. Now we’re a few weeks in we’ve had some more questions about what we have coming up next.

We have made up two documents here (one for undergraduate students, one for postgraduate students) which outlines the key training events we’ll be offering during 2022/23. This includes some law specific materials and some training that is open to all UoE students. Click on the documents below to download the PDF you need:

Information Skills sessions for Law (UG)

Information Skills sessions for Law (PG) 

We’ll write more about specific training sessions nearer each event but in the mean time we hope this is useful. If you want to get in touch to discuss any library or research related questions, you can always reach us via law.librarian@ed.ac.uk.

 

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!

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 Year, New UoE Library Services training sessions

A blue and golden sky with a few scattered fluffy clouds is visible, with a black city skyline at the bottom of the image. Beams of light seem to be projecting from a golden glow in the centre of the image, where the sun is just visible setting beyond the buildings.

Rays of sun through houses at sunset, Morningside, Edinburgh (@eilisgarvey via Unsplash)

Welcome back to Edinburgh! Although we don’t yet know what 2022 has in store for us, we do know that we’re keen to make sure our students are the best prepared they can be! For the Law Library team that means offering you a full range of induction and refresher sessions on how to use the library. If you’re feeling like you could do with a little update on the best ways to find resources, book on to one of our upcoming events using the links below.


Library Refresher: Wednesday 12th January, 11am to 11.50am (online)

Aimed at all undergraduate and postgraduate students, this session is a whistle-stop tour of all the things we told you at the start of the year. We’ll rattle through the resources and links relatively quickly so that we’ve lots of time to answer your questions, and if you’re feeling confident by the end of the session we’ve also got a quiz for you!

Come along if… you found researching your assignments just a little bit tricky at the end of last term, and you can’t remember where to go to find help.


PG Using the University Library – Law: Wednesday 19th January, 10am to 11am

Join us for an introduction to using library resources at the University of Edinburgh. Topics covered will include how to find and access books, journal articles and legal databases using library resources, and how to get help if the library doesn’t have what you need. The second part of this presentation will take a closer look at major legal databases including Westlaw and Lexis Library where you will learn how to find full text cases, legislation and commentary, and tips on how to use these resources efficiently and effectively.

Come along if… you’re a PG Online student starting in January 2022 at the School of Law.


Library Support for the School of Law (STAFF): Wednesday 19th January, 12noon to 12.30pm (online)

We don’t just work directly with students, we’re keen to speak to fellow staff members about how we can support their work too. We’re running a short session where we’ll present a bit and chat to anyone who works with the School of Law to make sure they know about all the ways we can help enhance their teaching or support throughout the year.

Come along if… you’re a member of staff and want to find out more about how we can help you!


PhD Sources, Materials & Bibliography: Wednesday 26th January, 11.30am to 12.30pm

(contact the Law PhD office for a link to the Collaborate room)

This session is aimed directly at PhD and PGR students, and takes the form of a one hour session featuring top tips on how to conduct complex research and construct your projects. We also look at some of the key resources you will need and signpost some bespoke materials that may be useful for students at this level.

Come along if… you’re a PhD students starting in January 2022 at the School of Law.

Finding International Legal Resources

Following on from our last post about Finding Material for your Research and Study, we’ve just recorded a new video to introduce some of the databases we subscribe to for international law. If this is an area that is relevant to your study, grab a cup of tea and spend eight and a half minutes finding out more about how library subscription services can support your work.

Screenshot of the opening slide from the 'International legal resources' video. The slide indicates the presenters are from the Library Academic Support team, displays the title of the video, and three quarters of a greyed out university crest on a white background.

Is there an area of legal research you’d like to know more about, or would like to find resources for? Email us on law.librarian@ed.ac.uk to discuss, or book a one-to-one appointment with us via the MyEd booking system; search for “Literature search clinic” and select the Law specific event, or search for “Law” and select provider group “IS Library and University Collections” to find all our Law related training.