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Staying Current

Resources for keeping up with new legal developments.

Search Alerts vs. Edited Reports

Search Alerts

Many databases enable you to set up a search to be run for you automatically. For example, if you want to see any new case mentioning "Myriad Genetics," you could run a search in an online service (e.g., Bloomberg Law, LexisNexis, or Westlaw), then create an alert to run the search periodically (e.g., once a day) and email results to you.

Edited Reportsdrawing of pointer (hunting dog)

You can subscribe to a newsletter or a blog produced by someone who will choose the important stories in an area. For instance, if you subscribe to Electronic Commerce & Law Report from Bloomberg BNA, you will see the stories that BNA reporters write and BNA editors select. If you follow the Sentencing Law and Policy blog, you will read about the cases and news items that the blog's author, Prof. Douglas A. Berman, chooses to write about.

Pros and Cons

Each approach has advantages and disadvantages.

  • Setting up an alert
    • Plus: You have a lot of control.
    • Plus: Results can go right to your inbox where you'll see them.
    • Minus: It might be hard to construct a search that gives you exactly what you need.
    • Minus: You have to read and analyze everything yourself.
  • Following edited reports
    • Plus: You get the benefit of someone else's expertise.
    • Plus: You get summaries and analysis rather than having to sort through the primary material yourself.
    • Plus: You can have the newsletter, blog, etc. sent to your inbox.
    • Minus: They might give you too much or too little. 

The answer? Use more than one approach.

graphic: drawing of an English Pointer from Woodland Wild: A Selection of Descriptive Poetry (1868), available in British Library's photostream on Flickr

Push vs. Pull

Push technology sends you updates automatically ("pushing" them into your email inbox). Pull technology requires you to go and look for something—for instance, when you look to see whether any new announcements are posted on the website of an organization you follow. Each approach has advantages and disadvantages

  • Push
    • Plus: Convenient.
    • Minus: Might come when you don't have time to deal with it.
    • Minus: Clutters your inbox.
  • Pull
    • Plus: You control when you sort through your updates.
    • Minus: You have to remember to do it.
    • Minus: might miss something important if you don't check regularly.

Social Networks (Old Style)

drawing of fashionable Europeans in French store 19th CTalk to your friends, classmates, and professors about your interests. That way, if they come across an article or news story that will be really helpful for you, they might let you know about it.

If nobody knows that you are passionately concerned about comparative approaches to privacy protection or poverty law or immigration reform, you won't get that friendly note telling you about a fascinating interview or impressive new book on the topic.

For your part, be a good colleague. If you read a news item, blog post, or journal article that relates to the paper your friend is working on, send a quick email message.

 

graphic: illustration from Round the World with General Grant (1879), available in British Library's photostream on Flickr

Managing the Flood of Information

Managing the mass of information you get through alerts, blogs, and newsletters is a challenge.photo of thousands of files on shelves

Sometimes, you will want to skim and delete and update, because all you wanted was a general awareness of the news. Other times, you will want to be able to find and use the information later.

Suppose you get a lot of updates via email. It won't work simply to leave everything in your inbox. Moving it to a folder named "Interesting Stuff" also isn't efficient. Consider creating separate folders for the different topics you are following.

Some researchers find it helpful to save notes and documents to folders in their computer. Some people keep one or more documents with notes about resources (e.g., "Articles to read for planned paper on X").

You might want to use an app for organizing your notes and citations. A couple of tools to consider are Zotero and Evernote. See University Libraries guide on Citation Management Software.

graphic: photo of files by Doug Waldron, used under Creative Commons license