Research Smarter Not Harder

By Gilbert Morales, Reference GRA

During my 1L year, researching caselaw triggered instant anxiety. To me, conducting research was an overwhelming experience that was hard to manage. Thankfully, I was wrong. Yes, conducting research is tough, but it is manageable by taking advantage of resources made available by the library. 

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One invaluable resource is the library’s collection of research guides (also known as LibGuides). LibGuides essentially serve as a one-stop-shop for beginning your research process. They cover many major law school topics, including Georgia Legal Research, Criminal Law, and Legal Ethics and Professional Responsibility. Students will find links to secondary sources like major journals, treatises, and even articles. 

Students will also see links to primary sources like the Georgia Code, the Federal Code, and local ordinances. What is neat about the guides is that they include tips and tricks to make research easier for you. For example, they provide direct links to secondary sources in Westlaw and LexisNexis so that researchers do not waste time trying to navigate those resources. 

As everyone knows, time is of the essence in law school. Research guides include different approaches to accessing resources, including links to research institutes and links to popular blogs that monitor the trends for any given topic. For example, in the Land Use guide, students are directed to the Wayback Machine to uncover website pages that are no longer available online. These tips and tricks are just the tips of the iceberg. Research guides are full of different ways to make the research experience easier and more productive. 

In addition to research material, LibGuides provide links to study materials. From evidence to tax law, students can access study aids, CALI lessons, and exam archives for each topic. The convenience of finding all the essential study aids in one location is truly a time saver. 

So, the next time you find yourself overwhelmed by the research experience, take a deep breath, and visit the LibGuides on the library website!

Virtual Research Assistance Is Available

By Luke Smith, Reference GRA

Whether you’re a master at using Westlaw or Lexis, or are just starting your journey into legal research, there will come a time when you feel stuck or don’t even know where to begin. Researching can be difficult and time-consuming, but it doesn’t have to be!

The library has some great online resources that can help you start your research and find what you need faster. As most of our 2L and 3Ls know, whenever you get stuck, you can always come to chat with your Reference Librarian, usually at the reference desk in the library. If you haven’t noticed by the lack of puzzles on the 5th floor, the reference desk is temporarily part of the circulation desk.  Now before you start panicking, thinking your librarians have abandoned you, the reference desk has gone virtual for the semester.

During the law library’s usual reference hours, you’ll be able to chat virtually with one of our reference librarians. You read that correctly. It’s not some automated A.I. response, but an actual human waiting to help you! All you need to do is go to the law library website and click on the red tab on the right side of the homepage. Just type in your question, and one of our librarians will give you an answer just like they would at the reference desk.

You may still be thinking, “I’m glad I can still talk to the librarians if I get stuck, but how do I even start my research on my own?” Thankfully, the Law Library has some great Research Guides on several topics that will help you start your research and become the most efficient researcher you can be.

From the library’s homepage, click on the box that says research guides. It will take you to a page where you can pick a topic and get a terrific guide that’ll help you plan your research strategy.

Learn more about our LibGuides in our next blog post!

Celebrate Constitution Day!

Now is the time to celebrate Constitution Day! We could celebrate with a birthday song, commemorating the signing of the U.S. Constitution. Although that would probably be an interesting party (and awesome since the song is now considered to be public domain), there are other ways to celebrate.

Page 1 of the Constitution, available for viewing at http://www.archives.gov/founding-docs/downloads

The Law Library of Congress and the Library of Congress Center for Learning, Literacy and Engagement are hosting a celebration of the 2020 Constitution and Citizenship Day. “The Bulwark of Freedom”: African-American Members of Congress and the Constitution During Reconstruction will be presented by Michael J. Murphy, a historical publication specialist working in the Office of the Historian for the U.S. House of Representatives. The presentation addresses the lives of those African-American legislators serving during Reconstruction as well as the challenges they faced. Registration for the online event is free.

The National Constitution Center also has a series of special events planned, including a virtual kids town hall discussion including Justice Neil Gorsuch. The Center will also be streaming the 2020 Liberty Medal Ceremony recognizing Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg “for her efforts to advance liberty and equality for all.”

There are lots of celebrations for our constitution.

This year, as last year, I want to highlight an amazing resource available freely on the web: The Constitution Annotated: Analysis and Interpretation of the U.S. Constitution.

The Constitution Annotated includes an explanation of the meaning of the Constitution, broken down Article by Article, Section by Section, and Clause by Clause. The explanation is direct and understandable, and it is heavily footnoted to the resources such as United States Supreme Court opinions that have historically interpreted the Constitution. 

Hosted by congress.gov and prepared by the American Law Division of the Congressional Research Service, this is a HUGE resource. In print, it is over 3,000 pages! The online version has functionality that makes it even more useful. For example, you can search using simple keywords. You can filter and refine your results to focus on articles, amendments, topics, and resources.

Researchers who prefer to browse are easily able to do so.

For those who wish to review Constitution adjacent information, that is also available. The site includes a number of Tables—every researcher’s favorite! There is a Table of Laws Held Unconstitutional in Whole or in Part, a Table of Supreme Court Justices, and a Table of Supreme Court Decisions Overruled by Subsequent Decisions.

In addition to being a helpful resource to consider in beginning research on a constitutional law research problem, this website has the potential for helping a researcher identify trends in constitutional law over time. The site includes links to additional U.S. Constitutional Resources that are available through the Library of Congress.

Come by the library and visit our print copy—for today it is at the reference desk, regularly it’s located in the Reference Collection—or check it out online!

Meet Your Peers Virtually Using WebEx

While, currently, you are unable to make use of our study rooms due to the pandemic, you can still have a virtual study room of your own via Webex – an online platform provided to you by GSU. It’s very similar to Zoom and allows you to meet with people virtually and share your desktop, files, etc.

To access WebEx, you can host virtual meetings at GSU Technology’s WebEx page. You will have to log in with your CampusID and Password. This link provides the steps you can use to secure the WebEx session on Windows and Mac desktops, as well as information on updates and usage tips. You can also download WebEx on your iOS or Android device – It is very accessible!

WebEx has a “personal room” that allows you to meet instantly and schedule meetings. You can start the room and allow people to pop in and out as they like. I think it’s an excellent option for a study group.

Once all of your group members are in, you can lock the meeting so no one else can intrude!

You can also share your screen and documents with your peers!

Additionally, you can assign roles to people within the group. For example, you may want to designate someone as the note taker. Or, maybe you want to “pass the ball” to someone else to present.

Similar to Zoom, WebEx also allows the user to change or blur their background image. These options may differ depending on what type of device or desktop you use.

Law IT has prepared three short tutorials on using WebEx, each under 3 minutes: Technology WebEx Related Resources. Included are tutorials on scheduling and launching WebEx meetings, as well as an audio tutorial. You can be up and ready to go with your study group session in just over two minutes!

Featured Database – Proquest Congressional

Looking for government documents is an important part of Legal Research.  Whether you’re sourcing for a journal, trying to find an old committee report, or looking for some legislative history, most law students don’t escape the clutches of legal education without having to look through some federal government publications. 

While there are free sources that provide access to government documents, coverage, availability, and location can be challenging to navigate.  Publications can be spread across several different sites, each containing different coverage and search interfaces.  This is why, when a student swings by the reference desk to ask about researching federal government documents, I send them to Proquest Congressional. 

Proquest Congressional is an expansive collection of government documents.  It includes historic congressional bills, member records, hearings, debates, executive orders, and much much more.  Typically the coverage goes back to the 1700’s to the initial publications of the United States and sometimes even before.  If it is a government document cited in a brief, article, or case, I would bet that Proquest Congressional has it.

Beyond containing a lot of information, it also has simple, intuitive navigation.  The advanced search allows you to pick which collection to search without presenting an overwhelming number of options.  It also provides several fields which are incredibly useful if you’re looking for a particular person, date, or piece of legislation.  The “search by number” function, available in the Legislative and Executive Publications dropdown menu, makes searching for a citation a breeze.  Search by number provides prompts for almost any congressional document with fields designed to change with the selected publication.  This way, there is never a question about how to enter a citation, where to put a dash, or how to abbreviate a publication.

Proquest Congressional makes finding citations easy.

Proquest Congressional is something everyone should explore.  While you might not need it on a day to day basis, knowing the navigational basics makes you a much more powerful researcher.  The day that a government publication question comes, and trust me it will, a basic knowledge will let you find what you’re looking for in minutes instead of hours.  You’ll look like a gov docs whiz and impress the boots off of your editor, professor, or boss. 

Welcome Back!

The library staff and librarians want to extend a warm welcome back to returning students. Now that you’ve made it through the spring (and summer) semester, you’re now trying to prepare yourself for the unknowns of fall. We in the library wanted to send you some helpful information and let you know what fall will look like for us.

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We have a lot of helpful information on the Reopening Guide that the Law Librarians prepared for you. It will provide you up to date information about Circulation (including library hours), Reference, Study Aids, Accessing the Library’s Databases, Using the Library’s Catalog, and Other Student Services. Unfortunately, we are not able to provide study rooms for the fall semester due to the pandemic. We hope to be able to reopen them soon!

Law school can be challenging under normal circumstances. Below are some helpful links and information about library resources for the upcoming semester.

Good luck! If there is anything that we can do to help you, please let us know! You will hear from your Personal Librarian soon!

Welcome to Incoming GSU Law Students!

Picture1We are excited to welcome you to the GSU Law family! As you finish the orientation process today, we wanted to send you some helpful information before you begin classes next week.

Of course, a lot of helpful information for all incoming students can be found on the First Year Guide that all of the Law Librarians prepared for you. It will provide you with information about Circulation (including library hours), Reference, Study Aids, Library Databases, Using the Library’s Catalog, and Other Student Services.

20200527_125950While we usually have study rooms available for students, they are currently not available for use during the fall semester due to the pandemic. The university offers a great virtual option that we recommend until we can open them back up. Learn more about it in this blog post: Miss Your Study Room? Here’s A Virtual Option!

Under normal circumstances, law school can be challenging. As you are entering into a semester with uncertainty, there are different things that you can do now to help you get through the semester. The following posts include some helpful tips for you to knock out your first semester in law school. Picture2

Good luck to all incoming students. Feel free to reach out to us. You will hear from your Personal Librarian soon!

Productivity Tips for the Upcoming Academic Year

office-work-1149087_1920 Although studying from home has its advantages, it also presents its challenges. The potential lack of structure, combined with the absence of social reinforcement and the presence of myriad distractions, can exacerbate the already-acute anxieties associated with law school’s heavy workload. Learning how to efficiently manage that workload should be part of any strategy to mitigate that stress. If harnessing the power of your smartphone to get organized sounds appealing, you may want to try productivity apps (all of the ones described here come in free and paid versions, and are available for iOS and Android.)

The first app to check off your list is a to-do list. The purpose is easy to understand for anyone who’s ever composed a grocery list: it helps you organize your most immediate tasks for action. As you complete action items, you virtually “check” them off, and they disappear from your list, giving you a nice little rush of positive reinforcement. My go-to to-do is Todoist. Its intuitive interface makes it easy to create tasks, break them into subtasks, and of course, check them off. In addition, the combo of voice integration and natural-language processing allows you to speak your tasks into your phone as they occur to you, which is valuable when you inevitably recall a critical but heretofore forgotten task while knocking out your household chores.

Next, you’ll want a dedicated note-taking app for creating and organizing notes and materials that won’t fit into a list format, such as class notes. In this category, I’m a fan of Evernote. It has excellent optical character recognition, allowing you to, say, take a picture of that maddening Pennoyer v. Neff case, annotate it during your WebEx lecture, and then search it all by keyword later in the semester when you’re pulling all of that personal jurisdiction material together for your Civ Pro outline.

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The final element in your productivity suite should be a habit tracker. Habit trackers, which are designed to directly incentivize your healthiest and most productive behaviors, really help to keep you on track in a world full of distractions and diversions. For its considerable fun factor, I like Habitica here, which gamifies your habitual behaviors and presents them as a SNES-style RPG. So, yeah, you can totally earn experience points, find some sweet magical armor, and slay dragons just by washing your dishes, wrapping up those Con Law readings, and getting your steps in.  It also allows you to create even more accountability by questing with your real-life friends (while maintaining social distance) in a party of habit-forming adventurers.

Are there any other productivity apps you find to be especially helpful in organizing your law-school life at home? Let us know in the comments.

Summer Online Content Suggestions

Summertime is fast approaching, which means it’s time for our annual summer reading suggestions!

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Every year we solicit summer reading suggestions from the Georgia State Law faculty. We usually purchase any books not available in our collection and add them to a summer faculty leisure reading suggestions display. Once it’s time to take the display down, the books are then added to the Law Library Leisure Collection.

Due to the new remoteness of all of our work, we’ve decided to change things up a bit.  Instead of asking for physical books that we can buy, we decided to ask faculty and staff for online content like blogs, videos, or really anything else they enjoy while away from the law school or relaxing at home.  Below are the answers we received… Enjoy!

*The recommendation list will be updated as submissions are received.

Pam Brannon

Bon Appetit – Bon Appétit is an “opinionated food brand” with it’s own YouTube channel. The channel features video content of recipes that everyone can create at home. There’s even a video with DeAndre Jordan cooking vegan pancakes!

Meg Butler

This summer I am considering a trial of the not-so-new Disney Plus service. There seems to be multiple options available to make my family happy, like Sophia and the Marvel heroes and villains. I, however, am most excited about July 3, 2020. According to the man himself (Lin Manuel Miranda), the Hamilton film will be available for streaming. We had tickets (a gross indulgence of my children and my own impulsivity) for the show at the Fox. I’m not sure how I feel about seeing the live show in August, but I’m super excited to be able to stream it from the comfort of my living room. Now that we are working from home, it sure seems to be “the room where it happened”!

Kris Niedringhaus

Buried Truths – Peabody Award-winning podcast. “Buried Truths acknowledges and unearths still-relevant stories of injustice, resilience and racism in the American South. The podcast is hosted by journalist, professor, and Pulitzer-prize-winning author, Hank Klibanoff.”

The Slowdown – 5 minutes of poetry and commentary from The Slowdown podcast or email newsletter.

A History of the World – A History of the World in 100 Objects from the BBC and The British Museum.

Recipes – A variety of recipes from Food52.

Patrick Parsons

Pasta Grannies – It’s exactly what it sounds like – short videos of older Italian grandmas making homemade pasta.  It sounds underwhelming, but I think it’s the best thing on the internet.

Cassandra Patterson

Goalcast – A “content production powerhouse”, Goalcast provides videos and other content intended to empower people authentically using real-life stories. It provides resources and practical advice to help motivate people.

Summer Hours & Online Access to Library Resources

By Gilbert Morales, Reference GRA

For Blog

During these uncertain times, it’s important to know your resources. No, not Netflix or endless TikTok videos, I’m talking about library resources. Many Law Library resources are accessible to every law student online. For example, study aids are available online for class prep such as Sum and Substance Audio and Acing series by West Academic and Examples and Explanations (E & E) and Emanuel Crunchtime series by Wolters Kluwer. Learn more about those resources from our previous post titled Featured Resource: The Library’s Online Study Aids. Also, don’t forget about the library exam archive!

Along with class prep, students can access other basic library services remotely throughout the summer. For example, did you know that students can still chat with a librarian? Simply visit lawlibrary.gsu.edu and click on the “Chat Reference” tab in red. There, students and others can chat with the librarian on duty. You can also leave a voicemail at 404-413-9102, or ask a question via email to lawreference@gsu.edu. Reference Services will be provided during the summer at the hours below:

  • Monday – Thursday: 8:30 am – 6 pm
  • Friday: 8:30 am – 5 pm
  • Saturday – Sunday: 1 pm – 6 pm

If you have books checked out from the law library, you may renew your books by signing in to your account from the GIL-Find catalog. You can also access the Gil-Find catalog by searching first for a title from the Law Library home page. Students–and anybody else with a library account–can view their books or other things checked out and simply renew them. I just did with one click! Of course, students can still return books to clear their library accounts. You can return books by dropping them at one of the drop boxes outside of other GSU campus libraries.

Lastly, A.L.E.R.T. sessions remain available! Simply visit the ALERT iCollege page, watch the video, and complete the session’s quiz satisfactorily. Remember students completing six topics will earn a Distinction badge, students completing eight topics will earn a High Distinction badge, and the Highest Distinction badge will go to students completing 10 topics. So what are you waiting for, earn some bragging rights by going after that High Distinction badge!

The library is open online for your convenience, and lots of resources are available for you! To learn more about available resources through remote access, visit here.