Research Tips and Reminders for Newer Law Librarians

By , July 8, 2011 9:52 am

by Erin Hoffrance

I recently stumbled upon an article written for summer associates on research success.  While reading these tips I thought that they could apply to newer law librarians too. Titled “Observations for Summer Research Success”,  written by Shawn G. Nevers of J. Reuben Clark Law School at Brigham Young University, this short paper provides several tips that I have found useful in my life and for summer associates.

Nevers’ 8 great ideas summarized and framed for law librarians:

Tools – Basically know what you’re working with.  Ask about subscriptions, contracts, etc. so you know the best resources to use for the work you’re doing.

Research interview – Ask questions!  Don’t be afraid to get clarification.  Knowing the background and what they’re looking for will make your job a lot easier.

Find a friend – Joining an organization like LLOPS is a great way to start building a network of resources.  If you are lucky enough to work with other librarians, ask them questions as well.  Institutional knowledge is a huge asset!

Planning – Before you dive in, think of a plan of attack.  Craft your search terms before you log-in to Westlaw or Lexis.  You’ll have much better results and spend less time re-crafting your search if you think about it before you log-on.

Administrative law – This area of law can be quite complicated, but if you can, take the time to learn the steps and procedures in this area.  A foundation of knowledge in this area will benefit you for years to come.

Don’t reinvent the wheel – This is especially true for legislative histories.  See if someone has done one on the same topic before you.  Also research guides can be quite helpful in determining where you need to start on a project.  Oftentimes libraries and law libraries have great research guides that give you stepping stones so you aren’t starting from scratch.

Costs – Knowing the costs help to make you an effective researcher.  An important part Nevers points out, and I know this to be true, is: “Don’t, however, let your worry paralyze you into avoiding Westlaw/Lexis when there’s a need.”  Get comfortable with using research databases so that you create efficient searches.

Have confidence – Tying in with costs,  Nevers put it best when he says, “You don’t know everything, but trust what you do know and be committed to learning as you go along. Learn from your research mistakes and inefficiencies, and get better.”

These are excellent tips for newer law librarians and it won’t hurt to pass them on to your summer associates and/or summer associates-to be!

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