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. 

An open computer sitting on top of a wooden table

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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!

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!

Featured Resource: The Library’s Online Study Aids

By Gilbert Morales, Spring 2020 Reference GRA

It goes without saying that understanding the law is hard work, but you’re not alone in this endeavor. The library has many resources to chart your path to crushing those pesky law school exams. One of the most invaluable resources is the library’s online study aids. Students anxious to begin exam prep can access online the West Academic Study Aids and the Wolters Kluwer Study Aids by visiting the GSU Law Library website and clicking “Online Study Aids” in the Services tab.

Blog Study Aid

In West Academic Study Aids, students can take advantage of the newly added Exam Pro quizzes. To find this tool, simply search the Exam Pro Series then filter by “Quizzes” under “Type” in the left navigation bar. Exam Pro quizzes allow students to immediately see correct answers and problem explanations. It also breaks down law school subjects into subtopics so students can focus on specific areas.

West Academic also provides access to the entire Acing Series. Like Exam Pro, the Acing Series also dives into subtopics and provides easy to understand explanations. However, it focuses mainly on short answer essays. Students can also benefit from double-checking their outlines by using Acing’s easy to follow topic checklists. Line by line students can understand the logic and sequence of contract formation, civil procedure, and rules of evidence.

Moreover, for the podcast generation, West Academic has the Sum and Substance Audio series where every major law subject is broken down into bit size audio clips ranging from 3-20 minutes. Listening to audio clips offers flexibility that can be used most effectively during exam crunch time.

Students can also access the Wolters Kluwer Study Aids that has a range of accessibility features. One notable feature is the ability to download study aid content. Downloadable materials make it easier for students to quickly access study aids on their desktop. Wolters Kluwer also offers audio and video content. For the visual learners among us, the “In Other Words” video series provides understandable material explained by law professors and legal practitioners from nearly all major areas of law.

Additionally, Wolters Kluwer offers invaluable content like Examples and Explanations (E & E) and Emanuel Crunchtime. Much like the Acing Series, E & E provides easy to understand explanations of topics and subtopics but also includes more short answer hypotheticals. So if your exam includes short answer questions, E & E is your go-to.

Emanuel Crunchtime is another terrific study aid because it’s among the most comprehensive. To give you an idea, this study aid typically includes short answer questions, multiple-choice questions, and essay exam questions, all with answers included. Emanuel Crunchtime even has flowcharts!

It’s important to remember when reviewing study aids that explanations will differ from your professors but as one 3L advised me, “use study aids to fill in the gaps.” Meaning where a professor was ambiguous, use a study aid to clarify. With that being said, it’s best to sample study aids to see what suits your study style. Remember you’re not alone on this journey, use study aids to reach your goal and crush your exams!