Struggling to find a research topic?

Bus with destination of Undecided

photo by flickr user Vanessa Pike-Russell

It is that time of year when many law students need to pick a research topic. One time-honored method for finding a topic is to look at circuit splits and see if an issue sparks your interest. Bloomberg Law and Bloomberg BNA have made finding these circuit splits easy. Simply log in to www.bloomberglaw.com. In the middle of the landing page, under “Law School Success,” click the link for “Upper Level Resources.” Under the “Law Review & Journal Research” section simply click on the “BNA Circuit Splits Table” link and you will be able to choose the table you would like by reporting month. Once inside a particular month’s table the splits are organized by topic. Happy Researching!

Be an Informed Voter

Ballotpedia is one of the more fascinating sites that you’ve probably never heard of. It’s a freely editable wiki, like Wikipedia, but much, much more specialized. With a couple of clicks, you can find out what measures are currently on the ballot across the country, details on all of the state legislative elections, and all sorts of information on what’s going on with the Georgia elections.

Ballotpedia also has a lot of historical information. Want to see what measures were on the Georgia ballot in 2004? Or 2000? You can find them there. In many cases you can even find a link to the full text of the measure or the official election results. And, of course, Ballotpedia will be updating the site tomorrow with all of the latest results.

Use FDsys.gov for federal gov docs

If you’ve been using www.gpoaccess.gov to access federal government documents, prepare yourselves for a long-awaited arrival:  the Federal Digital System, found at www.fdsys.gov!   The Government Printing Office has announced that, at the end of 2010, FDsys will be the GPO’s electronic system of record for government publications.

From now through the end of 2010, the sites will operate concurrently, but in 2011 you’ll have to use FDsys to retrieve the United States Code, Code of Federal Regulations, presidential documents, the Federal Register, the United States Government Manual, and many other useful government resources.  The COL Library encourages you to take the time to explore the FDsys site and how it functions.  There are helpful tutorials available, demonstrating how you can search or browse using the site.  Because the site is currently in public beta, the GPO is seeking public feedback.  Now is the time to share your thoughts about the new site!

An exciting feature of FDsys is the number of authenticated government documents.  The GPO takes a number of steps to assure that many of the electronic government documents are unaltered from their original publication.  The authenticated  documents available on FDsys have visible digital signatures.  A verified, authentic document will contain a Seal of Authenticity.  The seal is a graphic of an eagle and the words “Authenticated U.S. Government Information.”  Visit www.fdsys.gov and click on a recent piece of popular legislation–like the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act–to see the digital signature.

Resources for Law Student Life

The COL Library recently published a new research guide called “Life as a Law Student.”  The guide focuses on providing law students with resources about life in law school.

Whether you’re a 1L—new to law school—or a 3L looking forward to graduation, this guide includes resources that may be of interest to you.  There are links to books in the library that offer exam preparation advice.  You’ll find links to movies about life as a lawyer, perfect for relaxation after a hard day of classes and studying.  If you have a hard time turning off your technology, the selection of links available for both the iPhone and Android platforms is broad.  The links include both law-related and leisure sources.  Of course, the research guide also includes links to other online resources, including blogs that will keep you up to date on both legal gossip and legal news or provide you with information about life in Atlanta.