First Year Law Students, Legal Research Skills and Electronic Resources
12 Pages Posted: 6 Sep 2006
Date Written: September 2006
This paper reports on a case study of a stand-alone legal research skills programme in the Oxford University Law Faculty. The research methodology involved interviews, surveys and observation of students at two points in 2004 and 2006. The study finds that students increasingly use networked computers as their primary information source, with most students using legal databases to find cases, statutes and articles on their reading lists. Students' skills are better developed in citation searching than in subject searching and in using the more complex features of databases. Formative assessment, represented in "getting through the reading list" for weekly tutorials and essays, is the crucial factor in providing opportunities for students to develop citation searching skills. The study also found that students handle different resources differently, being more likely to read law reports on the computer screen than articles, and using electronic law reports as part of a computer-based study strategy. The report describes how students use the internet to search for materials when writing essays, and considers the question of plagiarism. It recommends that students should be given successive opportunities to do research as part of their everyday study to enable them to develop better research skills and practices.
Keywords: legal research, legal research skills, legal education pedagogy
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