Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Research papers and sources

Lexis and Westlaw and Google, oh my! So many tools and so much information, legal research in some ways has never been easier. But! Can you trust what you find? You know what you are getting with Lexis and Westlaw as one of the functions of these services - a function not often recognized - is to act as information gatekeepers. Both are always looking to add information content, but it has to be from known sources. They don't accept content from any Tom, Dick or Harriet.

Just to be clear, Lexis and Westlaw know their sources, but they can't verify the content of the sources. News articles, journal articles, etc. are written to make a point. What Westlaw and Lexis do is tell you what newspaper or which law review published the articles.

The Internet is also a wonderful resource tool and has a wealth of good information also. The problem of course is that any Tom, Dick or Harriet can publish a website and many do. So you google and find what looks to be a really good site, but can you use it? Maybe or maybe not, but you have to be information savvy. Fortunately there is a website that provides pointers on information evaluation. Yes, we know who publishes the Virtual Chase: Teaching Legal Professionals How to Do Research and link to them on our site under "Legal Internet Links" - "Selected Comprehensive Sites". It is a virtual place we like to visit!

The section on Evaluating Quality and the checklists are primarily for web sources, but are useful information tips in general. Yes, legal research in some ways has never been easier, but it also means that we have to be information smart.

Ernster, the Virtual Library Cat

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