Say Goodbye to the Books: Information Literacy as the New Legal Research Paradigm
60 Pages Posted: 6 Aug 2012 Last revised: 29 Aug 2012
Date Written: August 6, 2012
Legal research technology has changed dramatically in the last fifteen years, and it is time for law school legal research programs to catch up. Students entering law school are increasingly less comfortable with using print materials, and at the same time, electronic search technology is no longer modeled on a print-based system. Current legal research pedagogy, developed in the context of a print-based research environment, is waning in utility and may soon be moot. In order to give law students the skills to conduct effective legal research, and to adapt those skills to future technological development, we need to rethink how we teach and assess legal research.
This article argues that we should make information literacy the foundation of legal research instruction. By reframing the goal of legal research instruction as increasing the information literacy (specifically, the legal information literacy) of our students, we will be able to leverage the research skills they already possess and instill in them skills that are transferable to the legal research tools of tomorrow. The article first traces the history of how legal research is taught and introduces the idea of information literacy as a new way of thinking about legal research instruction. It then presents the results of our survey of incoming law students’ research training, habits, practices, and beliefs. Finally, it discusses how the theory of information literacy and our survey results can be used to rethink the way legal research is taught. With this in mind, we can begin to develop methods of research instruction that result in an increased level of legal information literacy, no matter the students’ starting points.
Keywords: legal education, legal research, legal writing, law school, library, legal research and writing, information literacy, technology
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