Library Research Guides • Et. Seq: The Harvard Law School Library Blog

New Research Guide: Law and Society

As I suspect is the case with many academic research librarians, I have several research guides that are “in progress.” Therefore, it is always exciting to finish one!  My latest guide, published today, is on Law and Society research (https://guides.library.harvard.edu/law-and-society).

I really enjoyed working on this guide, because, to me, multidisciplinary research is the ultimate exercise in language and semantics.  Legal scholars and sociology scholars may use completely different vocabulary to refer to and describe what may, in essence, be very similar concepts.  As a librarian, I have to figure out how to bridge those two vocabularies together so that searches for library materials are optimized for relevance.

Librarians spend a lot of time in the social science literature in library school; however, practicing academic law librarians rarely get a chance to look at much beyond legal periodicals and treatises.  This is too bad, because the literature in anthropology, sociology, linguistics, political science, history, philosophy, economics, and other areas can really help a researcher gain an understanding of law in a broader sense.  These disciplines can provide a framework for legal scholars to craft difficult, yet important, questions about law.  How does society benefit from law?  How does law contribute to the development of a community?  How should and do our understandings of history and ethics inform the development of a legal system?  In a societal sense, what does “justice” or “rule of law” mean, both theoretically and practically? What is the linguistic and social significance of legal terms of art?

If you are curious about the ways in which such questions can be addressed, I hope this new research guide can help direct you to library resources that are interesting and informative.  As always, I welcome your feedback.

New Research Guide: Researching “Civil Law” Topics at the HLS Library

Over the last several months, I have been working on a research guide that, hopefully, will help bridge one of the gaps that researchers from civil law jurisdictions face when they do legal research in the United States.  The guide, Researching “Civil Law” Subjects at the Harvard Law School Library, was published today, and can be found at https://guides.library.harvard.edu/civil-law.

I designed this resource to provide suggested searches for topics that are normally covered in the civil code in a civil law jurisdiction:

  • Picture of a paperback copy of the German civil code that features many colorful tabs on the pages on the side.Legal Obligations under Contract and Tort
  • Family Law
  • Property Law
  • Law of Succession
  • Remedies

While I was working on this project, I really tried to channel my civil-law self, and my heavily-used copy of the German Civil Code (pictured at right) came in very handy during this process.

The guide provides links to pre-populated searches, by subject, of the Harvard Library HOLLIS catalog.  Searching by subject keyword is a great way to make sure that you are finding materials across multiple languages during your search.

The challenge, of course, is that there is not one single, all-encompassing controlled vocabulary for subject keywords across all types of materials.

What does that mean?  When cataloging books, our library catalogers generally use the Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) controlled vocabulary.  However, library catalogers do not catalog individual periodical articles too, of course.  Unfortunately, there is not a similar controlled vocabulary for all periodical articles across all journals and databases — at least not one that I’ve found.  So “subject” keywords can technically be assigned by anyone — authors, editors, database administrators, etc., which means that multiple subject keywords may be used to represent the same concept.

So what’s the big deal about that?  Since, as of a few years ago, HOLLIS can be used to search for both books AND periodical articles, it can be hard to feel assured that you’ve found everything that is relevant to your research when searching by subject.  This is why I have included both LCSH and non-LCSH subject keyword searches — as many as I could think of that are relevant.  I readily admit that the guide is still a work in progress, and that I will likely find and add many additional subject searches as I discover them.

I hope civil law researchers find the guide to be helpful, and welcome any comments and feedback.

Researching Dockets and Court Filings

Happy new year!  I hope you had some wonderful, relaxing time off for the holidays and are getting ready to hit the ground running in 2019.

As many legal researchers know, researching court dockets to find criminal complaints and other filings can be frustrating and time-consuming.  While the subscription database BloombergLaw (https://www.bloomberglaw.com/) and its comprehensive docket database (including dockets for many state courts) has made docket research much easier than it used to be, it is always helpful to find a resource where this work has been done on the topic you are interested in already.  After all, there is no need to reinvent the wheel.

I recently found a great example of this.  The George Washington University Program on Extremism (https://extremism.gwu.edu) has created an online database of “criminal complaints, indictments, affidavits, and courtroom transcripts detailing Islamic State-related legal proceedings.” The database is available at https://extremism.gwu.edu/cases.

This is a very helpful resource for researching U.S. judicial proceedings in which criminal charges have been filed against suspected terrorists.  This database is organized alphabetically by defendant name, and, as of this writing, it includes entries for 168 cases.  Access to the database and its materials is freely available online.  The browsing interface is very clean and straightforward, and the PDFs of the scanned documents are of good quality and highly legible.

Looking for more information in general about researching court filings?  Check out our Records, Briefs, and Court Filings Research Guide at https://guides.library.harvard.edu/recordsandbriefs.

Also, the Yale Law Library has an excellent Docket Research Guide at https://library.law.yale.edu/guides/docket-research.

 

New Library Research Guide: Women’s Housing and Shelter Rights

The HLS Library recently published a new online research guide, Researching Women’s Housing and Shelter Rights.

According to the United Nations, housing and human rights are related due to “the significance of a secure place to live for human dignity, physical and mental health, and overall quality of life(.)”  Accordingly, “the right to adequate housing joined the body of international, universally applicable, and universally accepted human rights law” when the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was adopted in 1948.  See, in particular, Article 25 of the UDHR:

Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services(.)

Housing is also a protected right under Article 14 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), as well as several other international human rights treaties and conventions.

It is understood that the right to housing is comprised of multiple separate rights, including but not limited to (1) the right to shelter, (2) the right to affordable housing, (3) the right to habitable housing, and (4) the right to security of tenure.

The HLS Library’s new research guide on this topic includes a directory of organizations engaged in housing research and advocacy in the U.S. and Europe, such as the National Coalition for the Homeless and FEANTSA.

The guide also provides as a number of pre-populated searches of Harvard’s HOLLIS library catalog, using relevant Library of Congress Subject Heading (LCSH) keywords.

Finally, the guide includes a list of recently-published cross-disciplinary books and scholarly articles that discuss demographic and situational factors that are relevant to women’s housing and shelter rights, including:

  • Housing instability of:
    • Poor women
    • Single mothers
    • Women of Color
    • Gay women
    • Transgender women
    • Nonbinary/gender nonconforming people
    • Older women
    • Disabled women
    • Women who have significant health challenges (including drug abuse, cancer, and mental illness)
    • Pregnant women
    • Female victims of intimate partner violence
    • Women with prior evictions
    • Female veterans
    • Female sex workers
    • Women who have been in prison
  • Difficulties experienced by poor women in acquiring government housing benefits
  • The impact of the subprime mortgage crisis on women’s housing stability and wealth accumulation

The guide is freely available online.  Check it out at https://guides.library.harvard.edu/womens_housing_rights.

Library Research Guides for LLMs (and Everyone Else!)

A graduation requirement for each Harvard Law School LLM student is to research and write a paper on a legal topic, of at least 25 pages (short paper) or at least 50 pages (long paper) in length, under the supervision of an HLS faculty member.

Our LLM students are currently deep in the process of finding faculty supervisors and preparing their LLM paper proposals, which are due October 22.

The HLS Graduate Program has created LLM paper writing groups, organized by topic and led by experienced and knowledgeable SJD students, to provide the LLMs with a supportive and encouraging workshop-like environment for the process of completing this rigorous academic requirement.

Each LLM paper writing group has an assigned research librarian.  I have been assigned to help out three groups this year:

(1) Constitutional & Administrative Law (generally known as “public law” and also includes people writing about legal theory and philosophy)

(2) Private Law (includes contractual obligations, legal remedies, law and technology, and health law/bioethics)

(3) Trade and Private International Law (includes international investment law, international trade law, antitrust, and arbitration)

This year, I decided to create extensive research guides for each of my groups.  These guides include pre-populated searches of Harvard’s HOLLIS library catalog, using specialized subject terms.  They also include information about using the HLS Library’s subscription databases for law journal research.

The good news is that these research guides are freely available online and can be used by anyone!  Feel free to check them out and let me know what you think:

I also completely overhauled our International Arbitration Research Guide this fall.  Several members of the Trade and Private International Law Group have found to be especially helpful.  It includes information about the many arbitration-related databases to which the HLS Library subscribes.

TIP:
Did you know that the HLS Library has published more than 150 research guides?  You can access them online at https://guides.library.harvard.edu/law.

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