News and information useful to Cleveland-Marshall College of Law students, faculty and staff.


Save Time with Compiled Legislative Histories

Conducting federal legislative history research can be a daunting and time consuming task. However, for many pieces of legislation, much of the work has already been done. Compiled legislative histories are published collections of bills, reports, hearings, and other documentation from the creation of a particular act. Hein Online is one source for compiled legislative histories. Hein has an extensive collection that researchers may browse by Publication Title, Public Law Number, or Popular Name, or may search using the bar at the top of the page.

 

 

Hein is continuously adding more compiled legislative histories to the collection, and recently added twoFOIA Oversight and Implementation Act of 2016 and 21st Century Cures Act.

 

ProQuest is another source of compiled legislative histories. Users may click on the Legislative Histories link on the homepage and then enter search terms in the field.

 

 

Hein and ProQuest are both accessible off campus with your CSU ID and Scholar PIN.

 

For more on Federal Legislative History, check out our research guide.

U.S. Supreme Court Records and Briefs

Faculty and students at Cleveland-Marshall have access to Gale’s U.S. Supreme Court Records and Briefs database. This database contains briefs and related documents from Supreme Court cases between 1832 and 1978. Previously, many of these briefs were not available through any of the library’s other legal databases, so this is a very useful for anyone doing research on older Supreme Court cases.

Access to this database is IP-authenticated for users connected to the law school’s computer network; faculty and students can also access the database while off campus by logging in with their CSU ID number and library PIN.

Use Your Head(notes)!

Don’t forget to use headnotes to enhance your research. Headnotes are summaries of specific points of law that are covered in a case. They appear before the text of the opinion and can lead a researcher to additional cases that also discuss the given issue. In Westlaw, headnotes are part of the Key Number system, which classifies American law into broad topics and then divides those topics into narrower subtopics.

For example, a headnote on Westlaw from Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954):

 

LexisAdvance also features headnotes, which look a little different and may use different words for the legal topics. Lexis also offers the option to narrow the Shepard’s report by headnote. For example: a headnote on LexisAdvance from Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954):

Different Results from Different Databases

The statement ‘different search engines and databases produce different results’ may elicit various responses from people. Some may think that the statement is obviously true, some may believe search engines are all basically the same, and some may believe that you get what you pay for.

For law students who have routinely relied on Google searching, this article may be especially important. Habits learned in undergraduate coursework may not translate well to law school research. Google and the big-box searches on Westlaw and Lexis are run by algorithms, not by the user. While the algorithms use what the researcher inputs, how they come up with the results is not necessarily clear. Furthermore, the algorithms being proprietary to each database will be different depending on which database the researcher is using.

A recent ABA Journal article titled Results May Vary in Legal Research Databases investigates different databases and crunches some numbers regarding relevant results. The article looks at Westlaw, Lexis, Ravel, Google Scholar, Casetext, and Fastcase and compares relevant and unique cases. An important point for the researcher or student to internalize is that not every case was appearing in each database. While the reader should review the article for the particulars, researchers should take away a few key points from the study:

  • Every algorithm is different.
  • Every database has a point of view.
  • The variability in search results requires researchers to go beyond keyword searching.
  • Keyword searching is just one way to enter a research universe.
  • Redundancy in searching is still of paramount importance.
  • Term and connector searching is still a necessary research skill.

One-Stop Searching for Social Media from Federal Officials on ProQuest Congressional

ProQuest Congressional is fantastic for finding information regarding government documents, especially compiled legislative histories, as we have written about before. A lesser-known feature of the product is the ability to search the social media of public officials.

From the home page, go to Social Media. There you can search what members of Congress and Federal Agency officials are posting on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, blogs, and press releases. Search by individual or enter specific search terms.

A good strategy is to use this feature in conjunction with tracking legislation, or discovering what officials said in the past when legislation was being considered.