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.

Finding key resources: Stair Memorial Encyclopaedia

For those rejoining us in January for Semester Two, welcome back! For those who are new to the Law School or just this blog, welcome! This is where we report news, updates and offer tips for training in library resources. The blog is currently written by SarahLouise, the Law Librarian who works Wednesdays to Fridays, as we have a vacancy for the other half of the post. We hope to have a new Law Librarian joining the team over the next few months and will introduce them when they start!

We’ve received quite a few queries about locating some key resources for research and study over the last few months so we wanted to clarify how best to access these. First up, the Stair Memorial Encyclopaedia. This is a resource which is core for our undergraduate students as they get to grips with Scots Law. We do have instructions listed on the Law Databases Help & Training page under ‘Resources for Scottish Legal System’, but we wanted to add some screenshots here for the visual learners.

  • To log in to Lexis+, you will need to select ‘academic log in’. You may then be presented with a dropdown box to select ‘UK Access Federation’. Select ‘University of Edinburgh’ from the list, and you will be logged in. Alternatively you may have the option to select ‘University of Edinburgh from the front page – do this if available!

Screengrab of login page for LexisLibrary/Lexis+. The words 'use academic sign in' and 'university of edinburgh' have been highlighted in yellow to indicate areas to click on.

  • You may be asked to log in with your UUN at this stage if you’re not on-campus. Use your usual student ID and password.
  • In the middle panel in the centre of the page, select ‘content’ from the navigation menu.

Screengrab of main panel when logged in to Lexis+. In the central pane there are a number of links across a navigational bar, and in this image the link to 'content' is highlighted in yellow.

  • The resource will be one of the first items listed as ‘Halsburys Laws and Stair’. Click this.
  • Then you will see a link to Stair Memorial Encyclopaedia. Click the title, and use the plus and minus boxes to navigate through to find the section you need.
  • If you want to, use the pushpin icon near the title to add this to your pinned sources. This bookmarking tool means that a shortcut will appear under ‘My Sources’ on the main panel when you log in to Lexis in future, which will save you a few steps.

Screengrab of the contents page of the Stair ebook is shown. There is a pushpin icon in the top right of the image which has been highlighted in yellow.

Screengrab of main panel of Lexis+ again, this time with 'My Sources' selected. Below the navigational bar the direct link to the Stair Memorial Encyclopaedia is highlighted in yellow.

We hope this is helpful. If you have a resource you’d like a little more advice on accessing, please let us know by email (law.librarian@ed.ac.uk) or by commenting on this post.

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.

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.

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!

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.

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!