Category Archives: Law Library Services

Adding terms and connectors searching to your legal research toolkit

Have you ever searched on Westlaw, Lexis, or Bloomberg and found that your “Google”-like keyword searching is bringing up an overwhelming list of 10,000+ resources, and worse, none of those resources seem useful? When this happens to you, we recommend terms and connectors searching. Terms and connectors searching, also called Boolean searching and advanced searching, will enable you to take charge of your search. It is a way to ensure your search results are comprehensive and precise. We’ve mapped out steps below to help you become comfortable with making terms and connectors searching your default search strategy.

1. Assess the problem
Before you search, consider:
What’s the area of law? Am I familiar with it, or do I need to get some background?
What words (jargon, terms of art) are used in this area of law?
What type of materials do I want to search?

2. Write an issue statement

3. Turn the issue statement into a search query
A mnemonic for doing this is TARC:
Terms
Alternatives
Root expander
Connectors

T = Terms — Identify key terms
Which terms in the issue statement represent the most legally relevant facts and/or issues?  

A = Alternatives — Identify alternatives to the key terms
Brainstorm words that legal writers might use in place of the key terms you identified. Helpful options include listing synonyms and related terms, which may be broader or narrower in scope than the main key term (ex. if the main key term is car, alternative terms could include automobile and vehicle). You can connect these within parenthesis in your search using the OR connector, discussed below.

R = Root expander
Using the ! character (root expander) can help account for different word endings/variations.
– Ex. constit! = constitute, constitution, constitutional…  
– Plurals: the singular will retrieve the regular plural.

C = Connectors
Use connectors to dictate the relationship between the search terms you enter. The two main connectors are OR and AND.
OR expands search results
When used between two words, OR means that the results may contain either or both words.
AND limits / restricts search results
When used between two words, AND means that the results must contain both words.
Variations of AND:
w/s — within the same sentence
w/p — within the same paragraph
w/# — within # words (e.g., w/4 equals within 4 words)
The connectors w/s and w/p are particularly useful in issue-based searching. If words are in same sentence or paragraph, there is a greater chance they’ll relate to one another and to your issue, and therefore that the document will be relevant.

Phrase Searching
Always put phrases in quotation marks.

4. Write out your search query with all the terms, alternatives, root expanders, and connectors in place
Here is an example of how an issue statement related to drunk driving can be crafted into a terms and connector search:

Issue statement: Is an individual who was found asleep in his car, which was parked on the side of the road with the engine off but the keys in the ignition, guilty of driving under the influence?

Terms and connector search: (asleep OR unconscious OR “passed out”) AND (“drunk driving” OR DUI OR intoxicated OR inebriated) AND ((car OR vehicle OR automobile)/s (park! OR stationary))

When running a terms and connectors search, what you are doing is specifying the relationships that must exist between the terms in your retrieved documents, instead of letting the database search algorithm determine those relationships for you. In Westlaw, a space between terms is by default interpreted as an “OR” connector (first amendment = first OR amendment); in Bloomberg Law, a space between terms in interpreted as an AND connector (first amendment = first AND amendment); in Lexis, it depends on the other connectors in the search as to how the space in interpreted by default. Don’t let the databases push you around! Using terms and connectors searching puts you in control of your search.

For individualized help with terms and connectors searching, make an appointment with a law librarian!

Blazing Your Research Trail

We’ve all been there. An ember of a memory of the perfect case or statute we read a few days ago faintly glows. It’s the tantalizing last vestige of a source whose value we failed to initially recognize.

Cases and other resources we too hastily reject may not be lost forever. We can find traces of them through an analysis of our research history on our commercial research databases, or by wading through our recent internet browsing history. We might even have names at the tip of our tongue: Hammer v. SafewayAnnoyer v. Peff? But mining the lost, mislaid, or abandoned gems can become very taxing, and it takes up precious research time.

The Ross-Blakley reference librarians have suggestions for keeping track of your research (often referred to as a research trail) to make sure you don’t wander lost again!

  1. Keep a research log. This can be handwritten or electronic – choose a method/tool that works best for you. We have seen Excel work for this, as well as simple Word docs, or even printouts of cases stored in a tabbed binder. Even if you cross off a case or other source because it doesn’t seem to have much connection to your legal issue at first blush, the law can take you strange places, and you may want to revisit those sources later. Pro tip: Track the case name, key facts, holding, and key reasoning to create an explanatory parentheticals efficiently later.

  2. Follow a trusted secondary source. It’s dangerous to go alone! Long, convoluted case opinions are trying to resolve a legal dispute, where legal treatises, encyclopedias, and hornbooks succinctly and efficiently explain how legal rules operate in practice. Researching beginning with cases can lead you down unfortunate rabbit holes so we recommend starting with a secondary source 100% of the time. Westlaw and Lexis have excellent secondary sources; the ASU Library catalog is another resource for accessing secondary sources such as legal treatises, journals, and more.

  3. Utilize highlights, notes, folders, and sharing. Westlaw, Lexis, and Bloomberg all have folder systems in which you can save materials to access easily later. To highlight and take notes in Westlaw, just select a passage of text and when you let go, you’ll have an option to highlight or make a note. You can then save your highlighted, annotated case into a folder, where your notes will be preserved. Lexis has similar features, with the history button on its homepage and in the top bar on every page, and with the “Folders” button hidden under the “More” option in the top right corner. Both databases enable you to copy passages into Word or Excel documents by highlighting them and clicking on Copy with Reference (Westlaw) or Copy (Advanced) (Lexis).

  4. Meet with a Law Librarian to get tips on how to research efficiently and confidently. We can help guide you to secondary sources, help you navigate folders, highlights, and notes, and discuss best practices for research to help you on your journey toward a completed memo or GWR paper.

Andrea Gass, Reference Librarian

Feeling the Rush? How the Law Library Can Help Save You Time

When you’re fighting against the clock and calendar, the Ross-Blakley Law Library can back you up. The JD reference librarians have been through the whole law school experience and know the best methods for conducting research efficiently and effectively, and they want to share those skills with you! Make an appointment to Meet with a Librarian and get help with any of the following tasks:

  • Midterm prep. We can tailor advice on study aids for your particular classes, whether you are a 1L looking for help with Criminal Law and Property or a 3L trying to master the Federal Rules of Evidence. And we have a bevy of materials to cater to every learning style. The Exam Pro series on West Academic puts learners to the test with challenging multiple choice or essay  questions and explanations of right and wrong answers. The Crunchtime series on Wolters Kluwer provides practice questions as well as flowcharts to help you visualize, for example, the intricacies of whether statements fall in the scope of hearsay and whether exceptions will enable them to be admitted in court. Our study aids subscriptions also include both audio and video resources for auditory and visual learners.

  • Research projects. If you are a 1L, we can offer feedback on your research process if you’re feeling stuck. If you’re in a seminar or writing an independent study paper or journal note, we can help you narrow down a topic and navigate the rich array of ASU Library research resources.

  • Job search. We can help you use cutting edge analytics tools and other efficient research strategies to help you crush your interviews for an externship or law firm placement.

  • Citation mastery. We know the Bluebook and can help you polish your citations to improve your grades or your publication chances.

Reference librarian meetings typically last about 30 minutes and can save you hours of research time, as well as help you approach your projects with more confidence and preparation.

Andrea Gass, Reference Librarian

Wolters Kluwer and West Academic Online Study Aids – Your Keys to Success

Welcome to all our new students and welcome back to our continuing students. The Law Library is pleased to make available to you two online study aids services.

Wolters Kluwer Online Study Aids provides unlimited online access to hundreds of titles. Some series that are available include:

  • Examples & Explanations (a law student favorite)
  • Emanuel Law Outlines
  • Glannon Guides
  • And much more!

Use this link to create an account: WK Online Study Aids Click register to create an account. Once you create an account, your WK login will ensure off-campus access to the study aids. You will also be able to print, download, highlight, and take notes. You can download the iPublishCentral Reader App and study anywhere

West Academic Study Aids offers you easy online access to hundreds of study aids, treatises, and audio lectures to help you succeed in law school. To access the collection, click here West Academic.

You must use your ASU email address to create an account. West Academic will recognize you as a member of the ASU community and allow you to create an account when you use your email address as your username. Once you create an account, your West Academic login will ensure off-campus access to the study aids and will also enable you to print, download, highlight, and take notes. You can download the RedShelf App and study anywhere (available in iTunes and Google Play for Android).  Note: You must follow the directions provided by West Academic precisely in order to use Redshelf.

If you have any questions, please contact Electronic Services Librarian, Sean Harrington.

Have a great semester!

How Do I Know Which Study Guides are Right for Me?

Are you rudderless in a sea of books, guides, and online materials? Do you need help taming an onslaught of resources? Help is here. The Law Library’s Electronic Services Librarian, Sean Harrington has prepared a succinct study skills materials chart to guide you through the semester:

Study Aids Chart

Sean says, primarily the reason we collect such a wide range of study material is because they present (usually similar) material differently – we want to accommodate for different learning styles. To determine which you like the most it is best to skim the content (either in the library or online) to see which sparks your interest.

Secondarily, some of the materials serve different functions: One title may restate class materials in a summary form (Examples & Explanations), while another may give you a boatload of practice multiple choice questions (Q&A), and another may be audio lectures for your commute (Sum & Substance).

We hope the chart helps and please remember you can always Meet with a Librarian.

Welcome, New Students! Get an Edge by Meeting with a Librarian

The Ross-Blakley Law Library can help you chart a path to success as you begin your first semester. Check out our New Student Resource Guide to get familiar with library materials and services, including our collection of online study materials. Our video collection can get you up to speed quickly, and our blog will provide timely advice as you progress through the semester.

 We also strongly suggest meeting with a reference librarian early and often for expert advice on efficient study, research, andexam prep methods and materials: Click here! The reference librarians have been through this before, each of us successfully completing our JDs.  

Whether you are pursuing your master of legal studies degree, a master of laws (LLM) degree, or you are a 1L beginning your three year journey to a JD, we can help with all of the following:

  1. For your doctrinal courses, we can suggest popular and effective study aids in the library collection you can use to keep up with course readings, prepare for the cold calls of Socratic legal instruction, actively participate in class discussions, and write effective outlines to prepare for your exams.
  2. If final exams are already on your mind, we can point you to useful past exams in the library collection, as well as study aids specifically designed for test preparation.
  3. For your writing courses, we can demonstrate efficient research methods, introducing valuable secondary sources that can help you stay on the right track and find the most important and relevant primary authority. We can demonstrate how researchers who find relevant authority can use research databases’ tools to quickly find all of the cases, statutes, and other legal materials they need. (Students in fields of study other than the JD who are preparing to write seminar research papers can find guidance on navigating specialized legal and academic research databases.)
  4. We can help you access the resources the library provides to you, quickly troubleshooting when you struggle to access Lexis, Westlaw, or other legal research platforms.
  5. We candemystify the Bluebook, explaining how you can use its two sets of rules and array of tables to craft accurate, professional citation sentences or footnotes.
  6. When you have questions, we can chat on the phonevia email, via our web based chat, or you can meet with us
  7. When the time comes, we can help you build your professional resume, helping you research employers and volunteer opportunities. 

Welcome to the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law! The reference librarians are eager to meet with you and provide support on the path to your degree and your career.

Hit the Ground Running: Law Library Orientation Videos

The Law Library has a series of New Student Orientation videos you can watch at your convenience to get you started on your road to success in law school. You will learn about our resources and what our expert staff can do to help you throughout your law school experience. All videos are also published on our YouTube channel where we also provide instructional content, like how to research Federal Regulations. 

The first video in the series is a library tour and orientation.  It will show you beautiful footage of our library while providing an overview of the most popular services that we offer.

The second video in the series will explain the law library’s homepage and give you an overview of the New Student Resource Guide.

The reference librarians are happy to give you advice on which study aids may be right for you. You may check them out using the self-checkout machine located on the east end of the circulation desk or with the help of the friendly circulation desk staff.  The third video in the series will introduce you to the wide variety of extremely useful study aids available to you through our subscriptions to West Academic and Wolters Kluwer, including how to set up your own account so you can access all study materials away from campus. Materials on CALI can supplement your course lectures when you run into tricky topics:

The video One Search and Library Catalog demonstrates searching for materials and accessing them, including an explanation of how to retrieve materials from other branches of ASU Library.

Finally, we wrap up the tour series with our most popular service, Meet with a Librarian. This is how you connect to get personalized, 1-on-1 instruction from a law librarian. Students in recent years have been flocking to these appointments due to their unique utility. We can help you be more efficient and effective legal researchers. We’re pros who fulfill the research needs of the entire law school and we love sharing this knowledge with you. Make an appointment today!

The Law Library’s New Student Resource Guide

The New Student Resource Guide is a fundamental resource to help new and returning law students. Even if you’re a 2L or 3L, the guide will lead you to library tools that will help you succeed.

We have made establishing your research and study database accounts easy:  Westlaw, Lexis, Bloomberg Law, and CALI Access. Here, you will find a link to a streamlined page enabling you to set up these essential accounts in just a few steps, including registration codes and contact information should you need help troubleshooting a problem.

Our Tour and Orientation Videos were created to provide you with a personal and practical introduction to the resources and services the Law Library provides.

Please subscribe to the Ross-Blakley YouTube channel so you don’t miss any of our helpful and practical instructional videos.

Our New Student Guide also features the many different ways you can reach out to us for Research Help.  You can make an appointment to Meet with a Librarian. We meet with you one-on-one at time which is convenient for you. We can connect with you in-person and via Zoom, email, chat, or phone.  We prepare for the meeting ahead of time and are ready to assist you because we know how valuable your time is. We are here to help you make the most of your time. We can help you navigate research resources and identify relevant information quickly. You can also chat, text, send us, an email or if you just have a simple question, call us 480-965-7161.

The Study Materials section of the New Student Guide features the Wolters Kluwer and West Academic study aids platforms which provide easy online access to hundreds of study aids, treatises, and audio lectures to help you succeed in law school. We also have a print collection of study skills books located on the 3rd floor of the Law Library right across from the Circulation Desk.

Our Class and Exam Prep section has the latest resources on how to efficiently read and summarize cases for class, help you learn how to outline and prepare for exams, and includes exam practice questions you can use to prepare for the real thing. For your clinical classes, our First Year Legal Writing section guides you to resources to make your memos, briefs, and oral arguments stand out from the crowd.

Finally, Stay in the Know throughout the semester by subscribing to our blog and YouTube channel. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to keep receiving timely information and advice from our expert reference librarians. We will have posts throughout the semester to help you find what you need to meet each challenge along the way.

Please reach out to us when you need help. The Law Library is here to help you succeed.

Stay in the Know: Our Blog is Here for You Throughout the Semester

Welcome to a new semester! Especially for those just joining us, it will be a new and exciting experience. And it’s a time to connect with those who have experience with ASU Law to learn, grow, and build ties to the legal community.

The Law Library is here to help and our blog is just one of the resources that can help you. Throughout the semester, we will share information on helpful study resources, efficient and thorough legal research, exam prep, career development, and even maintaining your calm focus on the task at hand.

Early in the semester, we will help you find the right resources to keep you well prepared for class by highlighting resources in our study aids platforms. We will examine the Socratic method and help you achieve success and overcome unnecessary anxiety.

Later, when research assignments arrive on the scene, we will turn our attention to Westlaw, Lexis, and beyond with resources to help you find what you need and avoid wasting precious time on what you don’t need.

We will then touch briefly on using midterm exams to your own advantage before returning to legal research and helping you wrap up your research projects. By then, you’ll be ready to attack your final exams with authority, armed with our exam prep materials and guide on crafting exam answers. And when you submit your last Scantron, we will help you get a jump on the job hunt.

Subscribe to our blog and YouTube channel. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to keep receiving timely information and advice from our expert reference librarians. And if you are a new student, be sure to take a look at our New Student Resource Guide.

We are here to answer questions about study aids, legal research databases, citation, troubleshooting problems with legal research or study skills websites, and more. Contact us via Ask a Law Librarian. We can help you via email, chat, in our Zoom reference room for shorter questions or Meet with a Librarian for more involved questions.

Have a great semester!

Andrea Gass, Reference Librarian

Summer at the Library: Research Heats Up

Summer is not a vacation for the librarians at the Ross-Blakley Law Library. The end of spring semester only renews our focus on research and study services. Meet with a Librarian to get professional, expert advice from JD holding research experts on the following:

Summer classes and bar exam prep

Summer employment and externships

  • Summer job/externship research project assistance.Our work is not done when classes are dismissed. We can meet with you to discuss non-confidential questions related to your internship, externship, or clerkship
  • Evaluate and strengthen your sources. We can critique your research and suggest stronger academic sources if you fear your paper may be too dependent on less than reliable materials. 

Academic and professional development

  • Prepare for journal work. We can show you some tricks of the trade for finding resources you’ll need for cite checking. When all else fails, give interlibrary loan a try! We can provide lessons to ease the citation transition from the Bluebook’s practice oriented blue pages to the academic white pages. 
  • Be a star research assistant. If you’re working for a new professor for the first time, the librarians can get you up to speed. We work closely with most law school faculty members and can help you become a shining academic aide.
  • Land your next job. We know the ins and outs of evaluating employers and gathering intel on what they value in job candidates. We can show you the latest tools to get a sense of an employer’s operations and needs.

For your reference

  • Clarify Bluebook citation. Sometimes, the Bluebook gives clear, unambiguous guidance on citation questions. We are here to help for the many times it does not.
  • Get answers. We will continue to provide reference services through Ask a Librarian, and our circulation staff will be on hand to help you track down and manage library resources.

Andrea Gass, Reference Librarian