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.

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:

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!

Legal resources: taking care of quizness!

A neon sign is mounted on a dark wall. The sign shows a green old-fashioned television set with pink dials and grill on the front below the screen. Inside the screen are the words 'Quiz Time' in pink capital letters.

Image from USA-Reiseblogger on Pixabay.

It’s week one of semester two and we’ve already run several induction sessions for our January starts (and refresher sessions for current students who need them). Now would be a perfect time to put your newfound legal information resource skills to the test, and what better way than to with our quiz?

tinyurl.com/lawlibquizjan2022

Twelve questions with no time limit to test what you’ve learned about searching and using the library catalogue and databases. Have a go, and let us know how you get on!

 

New Resources on HeinOnline: Covid-19 Research

HeinOnline is one of the most used legal resources that staff and students have access to. It offers access to a large number of resources including:

  • Full text legal journals
  • U.S Treaties and Agreements
  • U.S. Supreme Court decisions
  • Over 15 million pages of image-based, fully searchable material.
  • Access to several smaller collections for example:
    • Law Journal Library,
      • Criminal Justice Journals,
      • European Centre for Minority Issues,
      • Scottish Legal History,
      • Selden Society Publications and the History of Early English Law,
      • Slavery in America and the World
      • History, Culture & Law
      • The Open Society Justice Initiative.

The most recent addition is a collection on Covid-19: Pandemics Past and Present. This covers materials on the global, societal and economic impact of COVID-19, and also has material on past pandemics and vaccinations.

Worth a look for those staff and students who are undertaking research in this area. You can access HeinOnline using the link above, or via the Law Databases A-Z page.

 

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.

Finding material for your research and studies

It is nearing the end of semester and the pressure to complete dissertations and study for exams is on. The Law Subject Guide is one place where you can find quick links to useful resources.

As well as linking to the databases we also have a section on where to find the key eBooks and Law Reports. This provides a helpful at-a-glance guide to where to find particular reports or statutes, and we’ve also added a document which shows which books are available via each of our databases.

TIP: When you download the PDF, open the document use the CTRL+F shortcut on your keyboard to search for the name of the book you’re looking for to see which database has it! 

Don’t forget there are also videos demonstrating how to use the law databases more effectively available on the Law Librarian Media Hopper Channel, and you can always email for advice if you encounter any issues: Law.Librarian@ed.ac.uk

Meet your LexisNexis Student Associate for 2021/22!

We’d like to introduce you to Noah Norbash, one of your fellow students who is a specialist in working with LexisNexis and all their resources – such as the invaluable LexisLibrary and Lexis PSL databases! We recently met with Noah to discuss what he has planned for the year, and he’s answered the following questions so you can get to know him too.

Tell us a little bit about yourself! Who are you and what do you study at Edinburgh?

Noah stands in the foreground of the picture, smiling at the camera. He has dark hair and beard, and is wearing glasses. He has a colourful tshirt on. Behind him the pillars of a building in Old College are visible. The photo is taken with the camera from a low angle so that a portion of blue sky and white clouds are also visible.

Noah outside the magnificent buildings of Old College

I’m Noah – currently a student in the Graduate LLB programme. I grew up in the United States just outside of Boston, but I have spent many a year studying and living in St Andrews, the Veneto region of Italy, London, and finally here in Edinburgh!

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

I applied to be the LexisNexis Student Associate on campus to not only enhance my own understanding of legal databases, but also to convey my knowledge to my fellow students. As an added extroverted bonus, I also get to have a bit of a chat here and there with interesting people! LexisLibrary has been of extraordinary help to me in my degree programme so far, and no doubt LexisPSL will be of equal significance when I begin the diploma and a traineeship. As a simultaneous LawPALS leader and a LexisNexis Student Associate, I looked forward to giving members of the university community the tools to succeed and achieve whatever they put their minds to.

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

The #1 top-notch feature that can be accessed on LexisLibrary is without a doubt the Stair Memorial Encyclopaedia – it is a resource exclusive to LexisNexis, and it contains a wealth of information on every imaginable topic in Scots law with links to any relevant case law and legislation. In a nutshell, it serves as a textbook on the entirety of the laws of Scotland, and its usefulness cannot be overstated! When it came to preparing for moots or even getting a birds-eye view of material in advance of tutorials, the Encyclopaedia can quickly steer you in the right direction for where you need to go.

If you could name one top tip that everyone should know about your platform, what would it be?

A top tip everyone should know about the platform is that you can easily narrow searches of case law to only a particular firm: this is especially useful to those seeking a traineeship to be able to discuss specifically what issues their firm of choice may be facing in today’s legal climate. There is no better way to stand out from the crowd in an interview setting – being able to express niche insider-quality knowledge about the firm that is totally available to applicants is a spectacular way to impress. By reading a firms’ submissions and the judge’s opinion on LexisLibrary, you as an applicant can see the fruits of the firm’s labour and gain a clearer understanding of what the firm seeks to achieve in the courtroom.

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

When students book a training with me, they can expect to gain insight into how to use LexisNexis software in an approachable and friendly setting. Over the course of the year, I will be running training sessions for Foundation- and Advanced-level LexisLibrary Certifications, LexisPSL certification, and Commercial Awareness more generally. Otherwise, students can get in contact with me for any Lexis-themed questions and I will be happy to help! Although I’m not an expert on par with the full-time Lexis Customer Success Managers, I will do all I can to imbue you with the knowledge I have been given and to give you a solid base of LexisNexis database-searching skills that will prove indispensable for the legal journey of your lifetime. Don’t be a stranger!


You can find Noah in his new and fabulous Teams group: tinyurl.com/LexisCorner

Alternatively youcan reach him by email at n.norbash@sms.ed.ac.uk.