With the renovations progressing here at the DMP Law Library, most of our print has moved off site, and is harder to get. To compensate the students, I’ve been giving some instruction in electronic-only legal research, and even though I’m immersed in this topic every day, it is still surprising to me just how much can be accomplished online. Generally, of course, Legislation that has any historical aspect still requires the print for most jurisdictions, though CanLII’s new point-in-time functions are great, and some jurisdictions offer this sort of detail online.

For Canadian case law, just about anything you want is available in multiple sources, and so choosing your source becomes sometimes a matter of what interface you like best, and what additional tools are conveniently available there. For instance, WestlaweCarswell offers online versions of the Abridgement and the CED, as well as the librarian-generated Index to Canadian Legal Literature. BestCase and Maritime Law Book now offer their resources on their own excellent platforms, and of course QL has great resources too. Print equivalents of periodicals are available in multiple resources, such as Hein on Line, and now eBooks are becoming more prevalent. I put up a list of the Canada-specific or Canada-related law books that we currently have access to here, for easy student access, and there are well over 200 titles, including a great many standard reference works, such as Crankshaw’s, Martin’s and the whole Irwin collection.

There is still the practical problem of how to work with this material effectively online. A professor here showed me how he manages his writing projects with a minimum of print. He has two monitors, and uses one for a browser, which has multiple sources open in tabs, and the other for his word processor. He prefers using Endnote to handle the citations, but Zotero will also do in a pinch, and it has some great features to aid the writing process, capturing webpages being the main one. I also advertise some additional resources to the students, such as Mozy for free backups and Thumbtack for quick note taking. However, there are many, many interesting and possibly quite useful tools for streamlining the online research experience, and I found a great source for them: DiRT, the Digital Research Tools Wiki. It was created by Lisa Spiro, director of the Digital Media Center at Rice University’s Fondren Library. As she describes here, the wiki also offers links to reviews of the tools listed, and more will likely come, as she considers it an alpha release…

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