Monday, February 28, 2005

Free Credit Reports

This 2003 amendment to the Fair Credit Reporting Act requires each of the three nationwide consumer reporting companies to provide you with a free copy of your credit report, at your request, once every 12 months. The Federal Trade Commission has information here and here.

Beginning March 1, 2005, free reports will be available to consumers in the Midwestern states, including Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. You can order your free annual credit report online at, by calling 877-322-8228, or by completing the Annual Credit Report Request Form and mailing it to: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center recommends that you engage in a free form of credit monitoring by requesting one of your three free reports every four months. By staggering your requests, you can check for errors regularly and identify potential problems in your credit report before you lose out on a loan or home purchase. See EPIC's Top Ten Consumer Privacy Resolutions.

UPDATE 3/5/05: A World Privacy Forum report revealed a number of problems with the free credit report website. See our summary or get the full report: CALL DON'T CLICK: Why it's smarter to order federally mandated free credit reports via telephone, not the Internet.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Research Tip - Singular and Plurals

Today's research tip is from Prof. Frank Houdek.

To search for singular OR plural form of a word . . .

  • don't need to use either universal character (*) or root expander (!) to get common plurals
  • use the singular form of the word because both systems automatically search for both singular and plural form
  • if you use the plural form in your query, LexisNexis also automatically searches for both singular and plural, but Westlaw will only search for the plural

To limit search to singular . . .

  • On LexisNexis, must use special search command: singular
    • EXAMPLE: To search for documents discussing job discrimination, enter: singular (job) W/5 discrimination
  • On Westlaw, place # symbol before term
    • EXAMPLE: To retrieve damage but not damages, enter: #damage

To limit search to plural . . .

  • On LexisNexis, must use special search command: plural
    • EXAMPLE: To search for documents discussing Steven Jobs, enter: steven W/3 plural (job)
  • On Westlaw, enter the plural form of the word
    • EXAMPLE: To search for documents discussing Steven Jobs, enter: steven W/3 jobs

Archive of Research Tips

Update: Soon after posting this Research Tip, I saw Plurals Lost In Google Dictionary Definitions at the Search Engine Watch Blog. One more reason to use the singular form of words when you are searching.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Research Tip - The Virtual Chase

The Virtual Chase is an indispensable resource for internet legal researchers. It includes a research newsletter, TVC Alert, to which you can subscribe by email or RSS/XML feed; articles on a wide variety of Internet Research research strategies and resources; a How To Do It with Research! section; a tutorial on Evaluating the Quality of Information on the Internet; Tips for Conducting Internet Research; research guides on Company Information, Legal Research, People Finder and Search Engines; and much more.

Now there is another reason to subscribe to TVC Alert, bookmark the Virtual Chase and visit often. Today's newsletter included the announcement:

Ballard Spahr is proud to announce the addition of research tips by Mary Ellen Bates to The Virtual Chase. Bates' research tips provide insight into the techniques and resources professional searchers use to find information. We launch this feature with a tip entitled "Googling Better," which illustrates 4 ways to improve Google searches.
Mary Ellen Bates is founder of Bates Information Services, Inc., which provides business research to business professionals and consulting services to the information industry.

The Virtual Chase has been helping experienced researchers, lawyers and other legal professionals to conduct research on the Internet since Summer 1996 and is now a service of the law firm Ballard Spahr Andrews & Ingersoll, LLP.

Archive of Research Tips

Research Tip - Use IDEN to Find Databases on Westlaw

There are so many databases on Westlaw that it is sometimes difficult to find the right database. (The same can be said of sources on LexisNexis, but that will have to wait until another Research Tip.) In this Research Tip I will discuss some of the problems you may have encountered in trying to identify databases and give you a couple of suggestions for doing so more efficiently.

To get to the Westlaw Directory of databases from nearly any screen on Westlaw, click on Directory in the gray bar across the top. You will see a "Search the Westlaw Directory" search box near the top. According to the Help Center, you can use the Search feature to "search for a specific database." Type a word or phrase in the box and click on the Search button to retrieve a list of databases. Twenty databases seems to be the maximum that will be listed, and it is not possible to advance to another screen listing more databases.

We have found that this Search feature does not necessarily give the highest ranking to the database that most closely matches what you typed. For example, our Lawyering Skills students recently had an assignment that required them to find a Time magazine article on Westlaw. Since the question gave a specific publication, a researcher would expect the Search feature to list that publication at the top. However, a search of the Directory for "Time magazine" retrieved a list of 20 databases, none of which was the Time magazine database. Some of the 20 databases were combination databases that included at least some articles from Time, but those databases are less efficient – and probably more expensive – to use than the more specific database. Other databases on the list were neither combination databases nor databases that had either of the search terms (Time or magazine) in their names.

Searching the Directory simply for "Time" did retrieve the Time magazine database, but it appeared on the list below 10 newspapers with the word "Times" in their titles.

I do not know how the "Search the Westlaw Directory" feature ranks its database lists, but the ranking algorithm clearly did not work in this instance. I have seen similarly dismal results on occasion, so I know that this result is not an anomaly. Assuming that researchers even realize that the Search feature is not listing the best databases first, what can they do? In the Time magazine example, browsing may have worked. Although magazines is not one of the examples listed on the front page of the Directory, beginning researchers may have guessed that magazines would be included in the "Westnews News & Business" directory and clicked there, then on Magazines and scrolled down to Time. But browsing does not always work. There are many databases on Westlaw that do not clearly fit in any of the main directories or that fit in more than one.

The solution may be an old database that is rarely mentioned in Westlaw training. Its official name is the "WESTLAW Database List," but most experienced researchers refer to it by its identifier, IDEN. According to its Scope information, the "IDEN database contains documents naming all databases . . . available on WESTLAW, and includes the identifier used to select the database, the originating source of the data contained in the database as well as all published sources, and beginning coverage, currentness and citing information."

Let's stick with the Time magazine example for illustration. Instead of searching the Westlaw Directory for "Time magazine," search the "WESTLAW Database List" by typing IDEN in the Search box at the top of the Directory screen or in the Go box in the left frame of the Welcome screen. This will take you to a standard search screen with the options of a "Terms and Connectors" search or a "Natural Language" search. A Terms and Connectors search for "Time magazine" lists the Time magazine database, TIMEMAG, as the top database retrieved.

What Is a Site or RSS Feed?

Site feeds are also known as RSS feeds. RSS can stand for Rich Site Summary, Really Simple Syndication or RDF Site Summary, depending upon whom you ask. RSS has come to refer to any of several types of web files used primarily by blogs, news sites and other frequently updated web pages. RSS feeds are created with XML coding, which is why they are sometimes referred to as XML feeds.

The availability of a feed is usually indicated on web pages with a XML or other small graphic like you see on this page, or with a "Syndicate this site" or "RSS" link. Thanks to RSS feeds, it is possible for you to stay current with news items and blog postings from dozens or hundreds of sites without having to visit each of those sites repeatedly to find out if it has been updated.

RSS feeds are not meant to be read using a web browser. You read them with a special program called a news aggregator or feed reader. Aggregators and readers include programs loaded onto your computer, such as FeedDemon, or websites, such as My Yahoo! and Bloglines. You can also subscribe to RSS feeds by email, using services such as RMail or FeedBlitz.

Using the aggregator or reader of your choice, you subscribe to RSS feeds for the websites and blogs that interest you. When those sites and blogs are updated, their RSS feeds are also automatically updated with headlines and sometimes with excerpts or full-text. The aggregator or reader automatically checks those feeds for updates, collects the new information, and organizes and displays it in reverse chronological order. Simply by checking your aggregator for new items, you can check new information from many sources in a matter of minutes.

To learn how to subscribe to feeds using Bloglines, read Using Bloglines to Manage Your Blogs and News Feeds.

For more information on RSS:

For more feed readers, browse the RSS Compendium or the Open Directory's lists of News Readers.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Finding Blawgs on Any Legal Topic

Reading law-related blogs, or blawgs, is a great way to stay up-to-date on legal trends and developments. Blogs tend to be very current, and more and more lawyers, law students and professors are using blawgs to share news and ideas. Here are some websites that will help you find blawgs in your areas of interest:

Law Weblogs—Blawgs: A Pathfinder, by Lynn Lenart, Assistant Law Librarian for Reference Services, University of Akron Law Library, provides a starting point for finding blawgs and basic information about starting a blog. The pathfinder links to a Blog Glossary; lists General Legal Weblogs (Blawgs), Law Student and Law Faculty Blawgs, and Legal Research Blawgs; describes Software to Monitor Blogs (RSS Readers and Aggregators), Blog Search Engines and Blog Directories, and Free Blog Hosting Sites; and includes a short list of Articles about Blawgs.

Blawg, "Your Source for Legal Blogs, Podcasts & News Feeds " was one of the first directories of blawgs. Each entry in the directory includes a short description. Blawg's Blog has entries about blawgs and related topics.

The Legal Alerts and Current Awareness Services page at The Virtual Chase provides descriptions and links to information services that focus on current legal news and other information. The page also links to pages listing government alert services, general alert services, and RSS news feeds for law.

Law Weblogs in the Yahoo! Directory The Yahoo! Directory is a human-created and maintained library of web sites organized into categories and subcategories. Yahoo! editors review these sites for potential inclusion in the Directory, and to evaluate the best place to list them.

Legally Inclined Weblogs is a webring of attorneys, law students, and other legal professionals who maintain weblogs or personal websites.

Once you find a blawg, you can find more like it by following the links in its blogroll and in its postings. You can also search for blawgs using any search engine. Simply add the words "blawg or blog" to your search.

Updated 11/20/2006.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Research Tips for Using LexisNexis Congressional

The following tips are provided in response to frequently asked reference questions we have received this week from students working on their Legislative History assignments.

LexisNexis Congressional is a fabulous resource, indexing Congressional documents from 1789 to current, abstracting Congressional documents from 1970 to current, and providing full-text access to bills (1989-current), committee reports (1990-current), Congressional Record (1985-current), Congressional testimony, i.e., prepared statements and transcripts of testimony before Congressional committees and subcommittees (1988-current), House and Senate documents (1995-current), select committee prints (1993-current), and much more.

As you can tell from the description above, the type of information available depends upon the date of the information. For very old Congressional documents, LexisNexis Congressional only provides indexing information, which you can use to find the actual documents in print or micro-format. Beginning in 1970, abstracts of the documents are also available, but full-text documents did not become available electronically until the 1980s or 1990s, depending upon the type of document.

The wealth and variety of information available on LexisNexis Congressional sometimes make it difficult for beginning or infrequent users to find what they need. Even the Help tools are not very intuitive. When researchers click on Help, they see information on LexisNexis Congressional content, an overview of the legislative process, a legislative glossary, and advice about citation to Congressional documents. While this information is helpful, it is probably not what most researchers are seeking when they click on Help.

The home page is a good place to get an overview of what is included in each of the dozen Congressional Search Forms from which you must choose. The link back to the Home page is three links to the left of the Help link. On the home page, you will learn that the CIS Index has indexing, abstracts and legislative histories from 1970 to present, and that the Historical Indexes include Congressional Indexes for 1789-1969 and Indexes to Unpublished Hearings through 1980. Therefore, if you want anything very current, you should start in the CIS Index.

The home page's description of the Testimony search form advises you that it will retrieve prepared statements and selected question & answer transcripts from 1988 to present. What is not obvious from the description, or from the search form, is the fact that the documents retrieved are from news sources. They are very current, but they are not official documents, and they do not include the information you need to find or cite to the official committee hearing documents. If you need a SuDoc number or a CIS number to retrieve the official document, or citation information to the official document, start in the CIS Index. The CIS Index provides citation information, SuDoc and CIS numbers, and links to available full-text documents.

If you are stuck at some point in your research, you will probably find the "How Do I?" page more helpful than Help. The link to the "How Do I?" page is two links to the left of the Help link. The nice thing about the "How Do I?" page is that it links to the recommended search form, and the left column of the page shows you where that form fits within the list of indexes. For example, the answer to "How do I find congressional publications on a specific topic?" links to the Subject Index. If you click on the link, you will go to the Subject Index page. Looking at the list of indexes in the left column, you will learn that the subject index is one of many handy indexes listed under the CIS Index.

CIS Subject Index

One more place to look, if you are stuck and the "How Do I?" page did not help, is the Site Map. The link to the Site Map is immediately to the left of the Help link. The Site Map lists all the search options available under each of the Congressional Search Forms listed in the left column of most pages.

These Research Tips are provided for your convenience. You may also ask a reference librarian for assistance.

Archive of Research Tips

Research Tip - Wildcards

After our tip on Truncation earlier this week, someone asked how they could search for bank, banked, banker and banking, without also retrieving bankrupt and bankruptcy. Truncation won't work, because a search for bank! would retrieve all words beginning with the root of "bank" including bankrupt and bankruptcy.

Both Westlaw and LexisNexis use the asterisk (*) as a wildcard or universal character, to replace a single character. For example, sw*m would retrieve swim, swam and swum. The asterisk can be used anywhere within or at the end of a search term, but it cannot be used to replace the first character. Use one asterisk for each character you want to replace.

Used within a search term, the wildcard requires that a character appear in that position. Therefore, you cannot use a wildcard to retrieve both the U.S. judgment and the English judgement. A search for judg*ment would retrieve only the English spelling of judgement. However, a search for bernst**n would find both the ei and the ie spelling of the name.

When you place wildcards at the end of a search term, they do not all have to be filled. The number of wildcards you use merely specifies the maximum length of the search term. So, a search for bank*** would retrieve bank, banked, banker and banking, but it would not retrieve the longer words, bankrupt and bankruptcy because bank*** can only retrieve words with three or fewer letters after the root of "bank".

Archive of Research Tips

Friday, February 18, 2005

Japanese-American Internment

February 19, 2005, is the 63rd anniversary of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's signing Executive Order 9066, 7 Fed. Reg. 1407 (Feb. 25, 1942), which led to the internment of more than 110,000 Japanese-Americans. The Librarians' Index to the Internet observes the anniversary by linking to websites documenting that time in our history.

The War Relocation Camps of World War II: When Fear was Stronger than Justice is one of the National Park Service's Teaching with Historic Places (TwHP) lesson plans. Includes maps, readings, images, activities and more.

"Suffering under a Great Injustice": Ansel Adams's Photographs of Japanese-American Internment at Manzanar is a collection of the Prints & Photographs Division of the Library of Congress. It presents "side-by-side digital scans of both Adams's 242 original negatives and his 209 photographic prints, allowing viewers to see his darkroom technique and in particular how he cropped his prints."

More websites about Japanese Americans -- Evacuation and relocation, 1942-1945.

Archive of Research Tips.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Research Tip - Quotation Marks

When should you use quotation marks in a search query?

On Westlaw, you must use quotation marks around phrases of two or more words, whether you are doing a "Terms and Connectors" search or a "Natural Language" search. Example: "fourth amendment". With the quotation marks, Westlaw will only retrieve documents in which "fourth amendment" appears as a phrase, both words in that order with no words between them. Without the quotation marks, Westlaw will treat the words as individual search terms. If you are researching the Fourth Amendment, you would not want to be inundated with cases in which either "fourth" or "amendment" occurs.

On LexisNexis, you need to use quotation marks around phrases in "Natural Language" searches, but not in "Terms and Connectors" searches. If there is no connector, such as AND or OR, between two search terms in a "Terms and Connectors" search, LexisNexis will search for the terms as a phrase. However, it does not hurt to use quotation marks around phrases in "Terms and Connectors" searches on LexisNexis. Since you do not know whether your next employer will have Westlaw or LexisNexis, using quotation marks around phrases even in LexisNexis "Terms and Connectors" searches will help you stay in the habit of using them for phrase searches. Then, if you find yourself working somewhere that only has Westlaw, you will already be comfortable with the search language.

Most search engines, including Google, Yahoo! and Teoma, will also accept quotation marks to indicate a phrase. Click on Help or Tips at your search engine to find out if your search engine accepts quotation marks.

Update: Several Lawyering Skills students pointed out that both Westlaw and LexisNexis require quotation marks around phrases in their "Natural Language" searches. I have modified the above post to include "Natural Language" searches.

Archive of Research Tips

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Webmail Tip - Preferences

Do you use SIUC's Webmail? Have you ever received a message in which each paragraph was one long line without a line break? Or worse, a message that appeared to be blank but wasn't? Changing one WebmailPreference setting may solve these problems.

Login to SIUC Webmail and click on the Preferences button in the upper right corner. In the Preferences window that pops up, click the Read Message button in the upper left. For the third preference, "Preformatted message text," click on the No radio button. This will allow Webmail to apply its formatting, including line breaks.

For more information on Webmail Preferences, click on the Help button near the bottom of each Preferences screen.

Research Tip - Wise Use of Truncation

In online research, truncation refers to the ability to search for all word variations that begin with a certain root without typing each word. On both Westlaw and LexisNexis, you can place an exclamation point (!) at the end of a root to find the root plus all words made by adding letters to the end of the root. The exclamation point is referred to as a root expander or truncation device.

For example, a search for mediat! will find occurrences of the terms mediate, mediates, mediated, mediating, mediator, and related terms.

The trick to using truncation is knowing how much of the root to include. In the above example, including one letter too many in the root and searching for mediate! would miss the terms mediating and mediator. On the other hand, including one too few letters and searching for media! would retrieve many terms that you didn't want, including media, medial, and median.

Archive of Research Tips

Monday, February 14, 2005

Research Tip - Know Your Search Engine

Considering the size and growth of the web, it is probably not surprising that even the largest search engines index less than one-third of the documents on the web. Furthermore, studies have shown that there is very little overlap in the documents retrieved by different search engines.

So what is a web researcher to do? First, make sure that you know how to use your favorite search engine very well. Click on the Help or Tips links to learn the best way to build your search. Set the Preferences so they work for you. And use the Advanced Search options when appropriate.

Second, unless you are absolutely certain that you have found everything you need, run your search in at least two or three search engines. The Infopeople Project has created two tools to help you choose and use other search engines. The Search Tools Chart shows the best features of the best search engines, meta-search engines, and subject directories, with links to Advanced Search and other specialized searches for each. The Best Search Tools Page has search boxes for the seven best search tools on one page, with links to the home page, Help, Advanced Search and specialized searches for each. Bookmark it to save time when you need a second or third search engine.

Third, stay flexible. If one search tool or strategy is not working, try something else.

Coming Soon: Finding Legal Information on the Deep/Invisible Web

Archive of Research Tips

Visualize Legislative History

J. Matthew Buchanan, whose Promote the Progress blawg focuses on intellectual property and technology law issues, has used his MindManager "Visual Thinking" software to create a visual legislative history of the Cooperative Research and Technology Enhancement (CREATE) Act of 2004. Read his post, Visual, web-based legislative history of the CREATE Act now available, to see a portion of the CREATE Act legislative history mind map, to read Mr. Buchanan's description of the project, and for directions about viewing the entire map.

Although Mr. Buchanan recommends MindManager, you don't have to buy the software to view the map. You can download a free map viewer or link to a web-based interactive version of the CREATE ACT mind map. The web version presents the map in outline format and includes a clickable version of the map itself (click on the link in the upper right corner). Click on the links in the outline or on the map itself to view the referenced documents (committee report, bill text, etc.).

Lawyering Skills students will recognize that the mind map goes beyond what is traditionally considered legislative history by including USPTO rules, commentary, and a place for case interpretation to be added at a later time. However, all of the linked sources are helpful for understanding the CREATE Act. This is a great visual representation of the legislative history and subsequent history of a statute, and it is well worth the effort to check it out.

Mr. Buchanan hopes to create maps for more complex IP bills in the future, so I have added his XML feed to my Bloglines subscriptions. Thanks to Stephen M. Nipper, whose February 14, 2005, issue of IP Memes led me to this source. You can register for free to receive IP Memes and other Technolawyer newsletters at

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Resources

I recently updated our Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) topical web page. The library compiles pages of internet resources to assist researchers in finding quality legal research sources. To see the current list of topical pages, click on Topical Legal Web Sites in the upper right corner of the SIU Law Library's home page. SIU School of Law faculty and students are welcome to recommend links for inclusion on an existing page or suggest topics for new pages.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Research Tip - Congressional Research Service Reports

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) is the non-partisan public policy research arm of the United States Congress. It produces in-depth reports and other documents at the request of and for the use of members of Congress. Because of their high quality, CRS reports are excellent resources for legislative history or public policy research.

The CRS does not make its reports available directly to the public, but members of Congress can share them with the public. Since the mid-1990s, libraries and interested organizations have made concerted efforts to obtain and make CRS reports available on the web. For more details on CRS, the documents it produces and how to obtain them, see the SIU Law Library's web page on the Congressional Research Service Reports.

Archive of Research Tips

Status of the Right to Counsel

In 1963, the U.S. Supreme Court decided the case of Gideon v. Wainwright, 372 U.S. 335 (1963), holding that the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution guarantee a defendant in a state criminal case the right to counsel, and that an attorney must be provided to an indigent defendant, who otherwise could not be assured a fair trial.

The American Bar Association's Standing Committee on Legal Aid and Indigent Defendants held a series of public hearings in 2003 in which testimony was received from 32 witnesses familiar with the delivery of indigent defense services in 22 states representing a wide cross-section of regions, populations, and delivery systems. This week the committee released its report, "Gideon's Broken Promise: America's Continuing Quest for Equal Justice." The report concludes that, 40 years after Gideon, the legal system still fails to protect the rights of indigent defendants to properly trained and prepared defense counsel. The report also makes recommendations for improvement of the indigent defense system.

For more information about issues of indigent defense, visit the committee's web site

Friday, February 11, 2005

Research Tip - Citation of Unpublished Opinions

Today's Research Tip is from Advanced Electronic Legal Research class. Prof. James Duggan answers a question that we hear frequently at the reference desk: Can I cite to an unpublished opinion?
Citation of Unpublished Opinions in Illinois

Rule 23 (Illinois Supreme Court) states that the Court (including the Appellate Court) may designate a disposition as an order, in which case it will not appear in the official or unofficial reports, and cannot be cited as precedent.

Citations in Illinois

Rule 6 (Illinois Supreme Court) states the rule for what must be included in a citation for cases cited to the court: "Citation of Illinois cases shall be to the official reports, but the citation to the North Eastern Reporter and/or the Illinois Decisions may be added."

Citation to Unpublished Cases in U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit

The Seventh Circuit is one of four federal circuits that prohibit citing to unpublished opinions, except for limited purposes in related cases. However, Seventh Circuit Rule 53(e) provides that no unpublished opinion or order of any court may be cited in the Seventh Circuit if citation is prohibited in the rendering court.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

National Consumer Protection Week 2005

This week is National Consumer Protection Week, and this year's NCPW focuses on "Identity Theft: When Fact Becomes Fiction." In keeping with that theme, here are some of the best sites for resources about protecting yourself from Identity Theft:

The NCPW 2005 web site has links to a wide range of consumer information on Identity Theft in both English and Spanish.

The Federal Trade Commission has a National Resource for Identity Theft, Take Charge: Fighting Back Against Identity Theft and How Not to Get Hooked by a 'Phishing' Scam, which provide information for protecting yourself and what to do if you fall victim to a scam.

The U.S. Department of Justice has a question & answer web page on Identity Theft and Fraud, an Identity Theft Quiz for Consumers, and a Special Report on Phishing.

The Illinois Attorney General's Consumer Corner this month focuses on two issues, Identity Theft and wireless phone companies.

The AG says that "reviewing your credit report for errors and unauthorized activity on a regular basis is the single most effective thing you can do to protect yourself from identity theft." She also explains a service through which Illinois residents will be entitled to one free credit report a year from each of the three national reporting agencies, beginning March 1, 2005. The Illinois Attorney General also has several Publications and Brochures about Identity Theft in English and Spanish.

Sabrina I. Pacifici, Identity Theft: A Bibliography of Federal, State, Consumer and News Resources, (Feb. 17, 2003).

The Open Directory Project's Directory of Identity Theft web resources.The Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) has information and advice for consumers, victims, businesses and law enforcement; links to laws, statistics and other resources; contact information for the three credit reporting agencies; and scam & consumer alerts. Information is available in English and Spanish.

The Anti-Phishing Working Group (APWG) has news and alerts, reports and articles, links to anti-fraud organizations, and consumer advice, including How to Avoid Phishing Scams and What To Do If You've Given Out Your Personal Financial Information. See also Origins of the Word "Phishing".

The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse has Identity Theft Resources and information on other privacy issues. Information is available in English and Spanish.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Research Tip - Using the Table of Contents on LexisNexis

Statutory codes, such as the USC and the ILCS, are arranged hierarchically by topic. When we say that information is arranged hierarchically, we mean that it is organized from the most general topic to the most specific, with related topics grouped closely together and subtopics appearing directly after the topics to which they relate. The visual representation of a hierarchical arrangement is a detailed outline.

Usually researchers retrieve a statutory section by using a known citation, going through the index, or searching the full text of the statutory code. Even if these methods seem to retrieve exactly what you want, however, you should not stop there. Statutory sections are part of a hierarchical scheme of laws; they rarely stand alone. There may be definitions in another section that control how your section will be interpreted. There may be another section about enforcement of your section. Or you may find another section that is more specifically applicable to your research project.

Because of the hierarchical arrangement of statutory codes, you can see where your section fits into the statutory scheme and find related sections by reviewing the table of contents. The table of contents method works on LexisNexis and Westlaw, in print, and with most statutory codes on the web. This research tip is about using the Table of Contents on LexisNexis.

LexisNexis has a link from each statutory section to the Table of Contents for the statutory code in which the section appears. Clicking on the "View: TOC" link in the upper left corner takes you to a Table of Contents that has been expanded to show the sections around your section. Look above and below your section for related sections.

LexisNexis Table of Contents

For example, if you had found 42 U.S.C. § 12182, Prohibition of discrimination by public accommodations, which is part of the Americans with Disabilities Act, LexisNexis would take you to an expanded outline showing all of the sections under Public Accommodations and Services Operated by Private Entities. Read § 12181, Definitions, § 12186, Regulations, and § 12188 Enforcement. Scroll up a little further and you will also see § 12101, Congressional Findings and Purposes, and § 12102, Definitions, which apply to all the subchapters in Chapter 126, Equal Opportunity for Individuals with Disabilities.

LexisNexis also provides links from each statute to specific points in the statutory hierarchy. Near the top of the screen on which your section is displayed, you will see a string of links to different points in the TOC. The first link will be to the statutory code in which you are doing your research and the last link will be to the smallest subdivision of the code in which your section appears, with intermediate subdivisions in the middle. For example, at the top of 42 U.S.C. § 12182, the following links appear:

LexisNexis roll-over links

The full text of the last link is "Public Accommodations and Services Operated by Private Entities." If you point your mouse at the middle link, " / . . . / ", a roll-over menu appears giving you options to go to intermediate points:

LexisNexis roll-over links

LexisNexis also allows you to search just the table of contents of each statutory code. In fact, when you select any U.S. state or federal statutory code, the default search is "Table of Contents (TOC) only." You can search the "Full-text of source documents" by clicking on the radio button to its left. You can also limit your TOC or full-text search to certain titles, chapters or other subdivisions of the code by clicking in the appropriate check boxes within the Table of Contents. Click on the Advanced link to run an Advanced TOC or full-text Search.

Archive of Research Tips

Research Tip - Using the Table of Contents on Westlaw

Statutory codes, such as the USC and the ILCS, are arranged hierarchically by topic. When we say that information is arranged hierarchically, we mean that it is organized from the most general topic to the most specific, with related topics grouped closely together and subtopics appearing directly after the topics to which they relate. The visual representation of a hierarchical arrangement is a detailed outline.

Usually researchers retrieve a statutory section by using a known citation, going through the index, or searching the full text of the statutory code. Even if these methods seem to retrieve exactly what you want, however, you should not stop there. Statutory sections are part of a hierarchical scheme of laws; they rarely stand alone. There may be definitions in another section that control how your section will be interpreted. There may be another section about enforcement of your section. Or you may find another section that is more specifically applicable to your research project.

Because of the hierarchical arrangement of statutory codes, you can see where your section fits into the statutory scheme and find related sections by reviewing the table of contents. The table of contents method works on LexisNexis and Westlaw, in print, and with most statutory codes on the web. This research tip is about using the Table of Contents on Westlaw.

Westlaw has a link from each statutory section to the Table of Contents of the statutory code in which the section appears. Clicking on the Table of Contents link in the left frame changes the display in the right frame to a table of contents that has been expanded to show the sections around your section. Look above and below your section for related sections.

For example, if you had found 42 U.S.C. § 12182, Prohibition of discrimination by public accommodations, which is part of the Americans with Disabilities Act, clicking on the Table of Contents link would change the display to an expanded outline showing all of the sections in Subchapter III, Public Accommodations and Services Operated by Private Entities. Read § 12181, Definitions, § 12186, Regulations, and § 12188 Enforcement. Scroll up a little further and you will also see § 12101, Findings and Purpose, and § 12102, Definitions, which apply to all the subchapters in Chapter 126, Equal Opportunity for Individuals with Disabilities.

Westlaw also provides links from each statutory provision to specific points in the statutory hierarchy. On Westlaw, you will see a mini-outline of the hierarchy in which your section appears at the top of the screen. For example, at the top of 42 U.S.C. § 12182, the following outline appears:

Westlaw TOC links

If you click on the link for Chapter 126 or Subchapter III, a small window pops up showing the text of all of the sections within Chapter 126 or Subchapter III, respectively, without notes or annotations. Click the Maximize button at the bottom of the pop-up window to display the text of all of the sections in the right frame. When the right frame has changed, click on Table of Contents in the left frame to see the outline of the chapter or subdivision now showing in the right frame.

Note: If you click on the Print Doc button at the bottom of the right frame while it is displaying the full chapter or subchapter as described above, you can print the text of all of the sections displayed, without notes or annotations, in one continuous document.

Archive of Research Tips.

New Books and Videos in the Law Library

The SIU Law Library's Selected List of Recent Acquisitions is a listing by subject of items purchased by or given to the Law Library during the previous month. January's list includes eight pages of titles on more than 50 subjects. Previous lists are also available.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Think Little Mistakes Don’t Matter? Think Again

Plaintiff’s attorney in Devore v. City of Philadelphia, 2004 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 3635 (E.D. Penn. 2004) found out the hard way that even typographical errors can make a big difference. The court reduced plaintiff's attorney's fee request from $300 per hour to $150 per hour for time spent preparing written documents. In reaching its decision, the court described the attorney's written work as replete with typographical errors and "careless, to the point of disrespectful." In its decision the court set out some of its favorite typos – including several in plaintiff's counsel's reply to defense counsel's attacks on the quality of his work – and commented that "[i]f these mistakes were purposeful, they would be brilliant."

Don't let this happen to you. Use your spell checker, but don't rely on it. Many of the typos listed by the court were the type that get past a spell checker but would be caught by proof-reading.

Everybody makes mistakes, even lawyers. For advice on the best way to handle mistakes big and small, read Carolyn Elefant, When Lawyers Make Mistakes.

Thanks for TVC Alert for this link.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Intellectual Property Blawgs from the Scholarly to the Humorous

One of the reasons for lawyers and law students to read blawgs is to stay current on new developments in their areas of practice. Given the importance of technology in the practice of IP law, and vice versa, it is perhaps not surprising that IP scholars and practitioners have led the way in the use of blawgs for current awareness. Robert J. Ambrogi has a good list of IP Blogs in his September 2004 column, IP Blogs: Pocket Parts for a Digital Age. Keeping with the "pocket parts" theme, two days later Mr. Ambrogi posted An IP blawg I should not have overlooked.

For a less serious approach to Patent Law, you might like the following posts from Robert Ambrogi's LawSites blog: Wacky patents, or the search for a better shovel and Making IP funny, one post at a time.

For more IP blawgs and other web resources, check out the SIU Law Library's Intellectual Property Law Resources pages.

Miscellaneous Research Tips

I discovered when I visited the Advanced Electronic Legal Research (AELR) class yesterday that they also have had a weekly research tip in class. Here are summaries of the AELR research tips so far this semester:

  • LLRX is a monthly publication that includes articles, guides, and resources authored by expert law librarians, lawyers, and information professionals on online legal research services, sites, tools and applications, legal research training, legal marketing, international and comparative law guides, recommended books, and reviews of the latest tech gadgets. It includes a searchable archive of all content published since 1996. (by Frank Houdek)
  • Five Quick Internet Browser Tips by James Duggan:
    1. Set the Home Page: Use Tools/Internet Options/Home page
    2. Use Tools/Internet Options to clear the Cache, Cookies and History
      • Cache: Tools/Internet Options/Delete Files
      • Cookies: Tools/Internet Options/Delete Cookies
      • History: Tools/Internet Options/Clear History
    3. Change the Text Size: Use View/Text-Size
    4. A mouse Right Click on a link will offer the option of launching the link in a new browser window.
    5. Use Copy/Paste Special when pasting content from the web to word processing to avoid pasting unwanted formatting.
  • Cite vs. Site (paraphrased by Diane Murley; Professor Houdek's presentation had illustrations)
    • Cite refers to citations. You cite to a case or a law review article. Or you make sure that your cites follow the Bluebook or ALWD Citation Manual rules.
    • Site refers to location. In legal research, site is used as an short form for website.
    • You can cite to a site, but you can't site to a cite.
  • I demonstrated for the AELR students Mozilla Firefox, a browser alternative to Internet Explorer, which you can download for free. Many people have switched to Firefox because of privacy and security concerns about IE. I switched because of its special tools for web developers, but I liked it so much that I made it my default browser. I showed the students some of Firefox's features, including tabbed browsing, the Find feature that finds text as you type without covering up anything, and the searchable full-screen Manage Bookmarks display, which gives you much more flexibility to manage your bookmarks.

If you are interested in a more detailed discussion of Firefox features, link to Chris Sherman's three-part series on Firefox. I will post more on my favorite Firefox features later.

We have added an Archive of Research Tips to the law library's web site. All the research tips appearing in the Law Dawg Blawg will also be linked from the Archive page.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Research Tip – Read the Instructions

LexisNexis and Westlaw have so many sources and databases containing such a variety of information that it is impossible to keep track of them all. But you don't have to try to remember the contents of every source and database. That information – and more – is readily available from nearly anywhere in your research on these two systems. Whenever you see a small "i" after a source or database name, you can click on it to find out what all is included and the dates covered by the source or database. LexisNexis displays its informational "i" in a small gray square; Westlaw uses a green circle.

But information about the contents is not the only research assistance available via the "i" link. Both systems include tips for researching the source or database. LexisNexis includes sample documents with the Segments marked, which can be very helpful if you are unsure of the appropriate Segment to use. Westlaw includes descriptions of its Fields and tips for searching "phrase indexed" fields.

Reading the instructions is a good idea no matter what type of research you are doing. If you are searching the web, look for "Help" or "Tips" links on the search engine's web page. If you are browsing a web site, look for descriptions of what the site contains and how it is organized. Most quality print legal publications also include tables of abbreviations, instructions on how to use the publication, and information on dates covered. Look for them.

If you do not have much experience in using a legal research tool, take a few minutes to read the instructions — especially if you are in a hurry. The few minutes you spend educating yourself will pay for itself in the time you save by researching more efficiently.

Previous Research Tips:

Searching Just the Text of Statutes
Topic and Key Number Searches on Westlaw
Think Small
Searching Is Not Research
Don't Get Caught Without a Search Engine