From the Reference Desk: I Need a Topic for My Paper!

By Amy Flick

writers block.jpg
Every fall semester, I get the same question from new students on the Emory International Law Review and students taking one of the international law seminars. They usually have only one or two weeks to come up with a topic for their major writing project, and they may not have taken an international law class yet.  The topic must be original, specialized, interesting to potential readers, current, not preempted by other articles, not likely to become moot before the article is published, and involve a legal issue for which the student can propose a solution. The topic should interest the student enough that they can commit to spending the next few weeks or months researching, writing, and editing it, and it should lead to a journal note or seminar paper that enhances the student’s résumé.

I do not keep a list of possible topics that students might write about. I definitely do not have a list of topics that meet all these requirements. I occasionally see a news item that I think would make a good student paper topic, but rarely at a time that I can match it to a student.

Instead of offering a fully-vetted proposal to students, I give them starting places to look for a topic. These are some of the resources that I suggest to the international journal and seminar students who are looking for research topics. These resources can be found in my research guides, most of them borrowed from other research guides. (I also have suggested resources for the students on the Emory Bankruptcy Developments Journal, but those are a subject for a different blog.)

Current awareness and legal news sources are good for finding developing issues and new and noteworthy legislation and cases. Browse through headlines and new documents in:

I follow news sources with good coverage of global issues and legal developments. Few law students seem to keep up with the news, but they may not have my NPR-fueled Atlanta commute. I look for headlines in these sources, which I also browse for potential homework problems:

International law blogs will point out not just new statutes and cases, but the legal issues they raise. Keep in mind that a blog post by a professor may be a precursor to a full academic article that he or she has planned.

For students with an interest in human rights, topic ideas might be found in:

Students looking for a national security-related topic might find one in:

Students looking to research the more commercial areas of international law, such as international tax and international trade, might find ideas for topics in:

  • Law360 for International Arbitration and International Trade
  • Bloomberg Law News in International Trade and International Tax
  • Business news from the Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal

Just as students look for pending Supreme Court cases and circuit splits when writing about U.S. law, students might look at pending cases before international courts and tribunals such as the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice.

Students who have found a news article that interests them, but who are having trouble developing it into an issue, might look at other articles and blog posts to find differing views. They might compare one recent case with similar cases from other courts, using the Oxford Reports on International Law database, or they might compare legislation from other countries using sources like WIPO Lex and ECOLEX.

At this stage, students may have only a general idea for their article or paper topic. It doesn’t need to be fully developed yet, but they will have to do a lot of reading and research to turn their topic into an outline, and I can at least give them some sources for that reading and research.

If you have any great ideas for suggesting topics to desperate students, I would love to hear about them!

Creating Training Resources for GOALI

By Latia Ward

GOALItitleslide

Title slide from the GOALI Basic Course Tutorial.

Purpose of GOALI

Global Online Access to Legal Information (GOALI) is a project of the International Labour Organization (ILO) (a United Nations agency) and its partners which include publishers and academic institutions.  One of these partners is Cornell University Law Library where I work as a Research Services Librarian and Diversity Fellow.  As part of my work I have created how-to resources for conducting research with GOALI.

The purpose of GOALI is to facilitate access to legal information for researchers in the Global South.  To that end, GOALI aligns with Goal 16 of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals:  “Promote just, peaceful and inclusive societies.”  Researchers have access to GOALI through their institutions and the Research4Life website lists nations eligible for GOALI.  In their paper entitled Global Online Access to Legal Information (GOALI) – A New Legal Training Resource for Developing Countries, Richelle Van Snellenberg, Unit Head of the ILO Library and Edit Horvàth, User and Outreach Officer of the ILO Library note that GOALI is about more than providing information resources to researchers in the Global South, but also about closing the “knowledge gap in academic research” between nations of wealth and nations of more modest means.  The facilitators of GOALI aim to close the “knowledge gap” through the provision of information resources from authoritative and current sources.  In addition, Van Snellenberg and Horvàth contextualize the implementation of GOALI within the Free Access to Law Movement and its Declaration on Free Access to Law which states that “Public legal information from all countries and international institutions is part of the common heritage of humanity.”  Included within this definition of public legal information are both primary and secondary sources of law.

GOALI is one of the five programs or platforms for information that the Research4Life partnership has produced.  Research4Life is a partnership of WHO, FAO, UNEP, WIPO, ILO, Cornell University, Yale University, the International Association of Scientific, Technical & Medical Publishers, and other international publishers.  The four other platforms for information are Hinari (health research), AGORA (agricultural research), and OARE (environmental research), ARDI (development and innovation research).  GOALI, the newest platform, became available for use on March 6, 2018.

Through GOALI, researchers may access journals, books, databases, and reference sources.  GOALI includes resources from the legal field as well as other fields within the social sciences.  An example of resources provided by GOALI include open access resources which cover a variety of jurisdictions such as African Journals Online (AJOL) and the ILO’s NATLEX database of national labor, social security, and human rights legislation.

Guides for GOALI

GOALI2.png

Screenshot from the GOALI Tutorial Video.  Image of computer monitor from Pixaby.

During the spring of 2018, I created a video, tutorials (which consist of slides showing research paths), and exercises on how to use the GOALI database.  My goal in creating the video (for which I included closed captions), the tutorials, and exercises was to provide a step-by-step manual on how to conduct research within GOALI.

When I created the tutorials and exercises for GOALI, I began by familiarizing myself with the platform by searching for resources and reviewing training materials that other information specialists had developed for Research4Life’s AGORA platform.  I reviewed AGORA exercises and modules for the AGORA Portal and Summon Searching to use as templates (although I had to research and create exercises and tutorials specific to GOALI).

The first tutorial and set of exercises are called the GOALI Basic Course.  In the GOALI Basic Course, I explain how to browse the entire GOALI collection, how to locate specific journals, publishers, and subjects, and how to find specific citations.  In the second tutorial and set of exercises, I explain how to do a basic Summon search, refine the search, and conduct an advanced search within GOALI.  In the third tutorial and set of exercises, I explain how to access publishers’ websites from the GOALI platform, identify general features on publishers’ websites, and how to use these features to find articles.  In the GOALI video, I include demonstrations on how to find journals by title, language, and publisher and how to access full-text books.

News about GOALI

The GOALI Launch Event of March 6, 2018 is available on YouTube and includes additional information on why GOALI was created and commentary from Research4Life Partners.  To keep up with current news regarding GOALI, follow #GOALI on Twitter (look for posts related to @R4LPartnership and #Research4Life as there are many posts related to soccer and people named Ali) and visit the ILO’s GOALI website often.

Seven Things I Learned From Co-Teaching an FCIL Research Class

By Amelia Landenberger

LessonsLearned

Image from Pixaby.

This spring I co-taught an FCIL Research Class, my first since beginning as an FCIL librarian at Boston University in August of 2018. The best teachers I know engage in a good deal of self-reflection after teaching, and I’ve decided to share some of my self-reflection with you.

  1. Find a Mentor. I was lucky enough to be able to co-teach this class with my mentor, who has many years of FCIL and teaching experience. I know that isn’t an option for everyone, but I can’t imagine how hard it would have been to do this without guidance and support. It is always a good idea to find a mentor, if you can. If you can find a mentor or colleague who is willing to co-teach the course, even better!
  2. Have Patience with Yourself. Because this was my fourth year of teaching legal research, I had unrealistic expectations about my ability to teach FCIL research. Learning a new subject while also teaching it takes far longer than adapting to new methods of teaching citators or adapting to new database interfaces, for example. I wish I could go back and change my expectations, but I also wish I could make peace with my own pace.
  3. Preparation and Timing. My mentor and I had preparation meetings for each week of the class. We would talk about the objectives for the week and figure out which parts of the class would work best as in-class exercises. The class was scheduled for 4:30-6:30pm. Many people are not their best during these hours of the day, so we focused on making sure the class was broken into manageable chunks and made sure to give the students a break in the middle of class.
  4. Movement: We made as many exercises as possible group exercises or interactive exercises, with a focus on getting the students to move and speak. We took a lot of ideas from our Lawyering Class (the 1L Legal Research Component of the Legal Research and Writing Class). We used a relay-race format for an exercise in Lawyering, so we worked that format into the FCIL class as well. Students appreciated the competition, and some of them insisted on working through the break to complete the relay race. The movement exercises were one part of the class where it was very helpful to have two teachers. It can be hard to coordinate all the moving pieces of an exercise while also making sure no students are stuck or frustrated, but with two teachers, the exercise ran much more smoothly.
  5. The Structure of FCIL Law. I didn’t understand the importance of repeating the structure and grounding each class in the structure of foreign and international law. We focused on making sure students knew where each part of the class fits into the broader scheme. Most students coming into the class expect the class will be entirely about foreign law, so it was important to orient their focus to public and private international law as well.
  6. Don’t Focus on Foreign Law. Our students wanted to learn foreign law, but we aren’t qualified to practice law in foreign jurisdictions, and neither are they. We had to focus on what would be most useful to our students rather than what they thought would be the most useful.
  7. Something Will Go Wrong. In one class, an entire database unexpectedly wasn’t working. I might have been overwhelmed, but it was wonderful to watch my co-teacher keep her cool and move on to a different exercise. The students learned what they needed to learn, and we were able to show the database the next week.

I learned a lot from co-teaching FCIL research this spring, and I’ll be teaching the class again in the fall, without a co-teacher this time. Wish me luck!

New FCIL Librarian Series: Supporting International Moot Court Programs

By Sarah Reis

This is the fifth post in a series of posts about adjusting to my new position as a foreign and international law librarian. I started my position at the Pritzker Legal Research Center at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law in February 2018.

Reis - Parillo Court RoomOur Class of 2019 graduated in mid-May and our returning law students are now hard at work at their summer jobs, so things have really quieted down around the library. Summertime is the best time to work on all of those projects that you never have quite enough time to get around to during the fall and spring semesters. One project I plan to focus on this summer is to figure out how to improve our support to our international moot court programs.

During this past academic year, a faculty member put together an inaugural team for the Price Media Law Moot Court Programme. This team was comprised of both JD and LLM students along with a student (LLM) coach who had previously participated in this competition. The team successfully advanced to the international rounds and competed at Oxford in April. In late January, I was invited to help out with one of their practice sessions before they traveled to compete in the regional round. I reviewed the memorials they submitted and then attended a session to hear their oral arguments and ask them questions alongside two other professors.

For next year, I have already coordinated with the supervising professor about possibly holding a session on conducting international legal research in the fall. Although the competition rules do not permit anyone to assist team members with researching, writing, or editing, an in-person research session will at least help make them aware of resources they have access to through the library, many of which they may not have encountered or used before.

We also had a team compete in the Willem C. Vis International Commercial Arbitration Moot in Vienna in April. I helped a few of the Vis team members locate some resources in the fall, but I would like to form a closer relationship with the future teams. Our library worked to obtain a trial subscription to Born’s International Arbitration Lectures in the weeks preceding the competition because one of the team members requested it. This resource would be helpful for future participants, but Wolters Kluwer only permits access via individual usernames and passwords, so we were unable to subscribe to it when the trial period ended. If any of you have successfully managed to arrange for IP access to this resource with Wolters Kluwer or know of any helpful (and less cost prohibitive) video alternatives covering international arbitration concepts, I would greatly appreciate your suggestions to pass along to our future teams.

In the upcoming academic year and beyond, I plan to touch base with the participants on these two teams and our Jessup team as soon as the problems are released to let them know about resources available through the library. This summer, I will also be working on creating research guides on international commercial arbitration and international media law to support next year’s Vis Moot and Price Media Law Moot teams. I would love to hear how you support your moot court teams at your law schools so I can steal some of your great ideas!

Teaching FCIL as a Non-FCIL Librarian: Go-To Resources

By Janet Kearney & Michelle Penn

SlawFCILCareersWordle1This is the second in a set of posts from Michelle and Janet on FCIL for non-FCIL librarians; the previous post highlighted some go-to databases, and our next post will take a look at collection development. Michelle and Janet are both from Fordham Law Library, where Michelle is Faculty Services Librarian and Janet recently made the leap from Reference Librarian to FCIL Law Librarian. Thanks for having us!

When we first proposed this idea for a blog post, we did not realize just how often DipLawMatic Dialogues discusses tips for new teachers and FCIL teaching. Our challenge was to make this a useful post that doesn’t simply repeat the great advice of our colleagues who have come before us. We decided to once again focus on “go-to” resources in the hope that this will serve as a useful guide no matter what FCIL teaching situation finds you.

How might you find yourself teaching FCIL? In addition to the fact that we all do things outside our wheelhouse, teaching FCIL research can be a great way to help keep your FCIL research skills current even when you are not a FCIL librarian. Proposing a FCIL course can encourage you to brush up on your FCIL skills and help prepare you to move to a FCIL position in the future, if that’s something you want. For the less experienced non-FCIL librarian, teaching a FCIL class in a general advanced legal class, or offering research instruction for a doctrinal class, such as International Criminal Law or International Business Law, can be great ways to gain teaching experience and subject matter familiarity, without committing to teach an entire course on the subject. Offering research help for FCIL student journals, is another good way to explore different areas of FCIL research.

Although there are so many great resources out there on teaching, like 7 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started Teaching Legal Research, here a few geared specifically towards FCIL.

Teaching Tip: Above all else, ask for help when you need it.

Do not hesitate to ask for help from other librarians! Even though our job is to provide assistance, it can still be difficult to turn around and be the one asking for help instead. Many of your colleagues probably have varying degrees of FCIL research experience and may be willing to share their course materials and insights on teaching FCIL. This includes your immediate colleagues, but the wider world of the FCIL-SIS is incredibly helpful as well.

Where can I ask for help?

The FCIL-SIS website, https://www.aallnet.org/fcilsis/education-training/teaching-fcil/, has information on existing classes and contact information for people willing to answer questions. You can send out an email on a listserv, like the FCIL-SIS My Communities forum or the Int-Law listserv. You could also leave us a lovely comment on this post!

Where can I find course documents, like syllabi or assignments?

The FCIL-SIS website also contains a Syllabi and Course Materials Database, https://www.aallnet.org/fcilsis/education-training/teaching-fcil/syllabi-course-materials-database/. This resource is very helpful and mentioned in almost every teaching FCIL post on DipLawMatic Dialogues. Check out this entry, Teaching FCIL Research Series: Fun with FCIL Assignments, https://fcilsis.wordpress.com/2018/02/13/teaching-fcil-research-series-fun-with-fcil-assignments/.

What are the best texts to help me prep/assign for reading?

The general consensus seems to be:

  • Marci B. Hoffman & Robert C. Berring, Jr., International Legal Research in a Nutshell (2d ed. 2017).
  • Marci Hoffman & Mary Rumsey, International and Foreign Legal Research: A Coursebook (2d ed. 2012).
  • Heidi Frostestad Kuehl & Megan A. O’Brien, International Legal Research in a Global Community (2018).

For more on textual selection see this AALL panel review and this post on selecting books.

How can I find more helpful DipLawMatic Dialogues posts on this subject?

This blog allows you to find posts by subject using both tags and categories using the right-hand side menu. Check the posts tagged teaching here, https://fcilsis.wordpress.com/tag/teaching/, and the category of teaching here, https://fcilsis.wordpress.com/category/teaching-2/. Last May, Alyson Drake compiled a great list, Teaching FCIL Research: Revisiting 15 DipLawMatic Posts on Teaching, https://fcilsis.wordpress.com/2018/05/22/teaching-fcil-research-revisiting-15-diplawmatic-posts-on-teaching/.

 

Teaching a FCIL Research Course for the First TIme

By Sarah Reis, Foreign and International Law Librarian, Northwestern Pritzker School of Law

 This is the third post in a series of posts over the next year about adjusting to my new position as a foreign and international law librarian. I started my position at the Pritzker Legal Research Center at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law in February 2018.

A couple of weeks ago, I started teaching my Foreign, Comparative, and International Legal Research course for the spring semester. (Perhaps in Chicago, it would be more accurate to refer to the “spring semester” as the “winter semester.”) Not only is this the first time I am teaching a FCIL research course, but it is also the first class that I am teaching on my own, which has been simultaneously exciting and nerve-racking.

Reis - Photo 1.jpgTo help me feel more comfortable with teaching, I spent the fall semester co-teaching an Advanced Legal Research class with one of my colleagues. I learned so much from my co-instructor, Clare Willis, about how to ensure that assignments are appropriately meeting learning objectives, how to develop useful rubrics for grading assignments, and how to effectively employ creative teaching methods to keep students engaged during class. I am grateful I had the opportunity to work closely with an experienced instructor for a semester prior to teaching on my own.

In designing my FCIL research course, I consulted materials other librarians have generously shared and read through the DipLawMatic posts about teaching. Additionally, the teacher’s manual for International Legal Research in a Global Community has been an essential resource in preparing my class materials (thank you, Heidi Kuehl and Megan O’Brien!). I chose not to require my students to purchase a textbook, but rather assigned selected chapters from International Legal Research in a Nutshell, which is available electronically through our West Study Aids subscription, along with a few chapters from International Legal Research in a Global Community and International and Foreign Legal Research: A Coursebook, for which we have copies on reserve.

My two-credit class meets twice a week for 55-minute periods. Already, I recognize it is going to be challenging to fit in a lecture/discussion and an in-class exercise while leaving sufficient time for a debriefing or review. I am looking forward to experimenting with various methods to give students time to practice using research tools and resources. For instance, some class sessions are set up with short exercises scattered throughout the session, while other class sessions are going to be dedicated workshop days where they will spend almost the entire class period working on a research problem in a guided environment.

One of the most exciting things about this class is the student diversity. The class has fifteen students, which includes a mix of JD students, LLM students, and students from our LLM in International Human Rights program. Some students have taken several international law courses, other students have already spent a semester working on projects for the Center for International Human Rights, whereas still others are completely new to international law concepts. I am encouraging the students to work together on in-class exercises so that some of the students who are more familiar with international law can help others who might not have taken an international law course before. Because the LLM students are familiar with legal systems in other countries, I am really looking forward to our class sessions on foreign law because I know the students will learn a lot from each other.

Throughout the semester, students will be required to submit four assignments accompanied by research logs so I can provide them with continuous feedback. Because I anticipated that that they would have diverse interests in areas of law (which was confirmed by the responses to the intro survey I had them fill out during the first week of class), I have incorporated an element of choice into the course by allowing them to select their own final project topic.

I realize that my first semester teaching this class will be the most challenging semester because over the next three months I’ll be getting a feel for what works well—and what doesn’t. After each class session, I have been carefully documenting and keeping track of how I felt the class session went so I can remember to adjust things as needed in future semesters. I am looking forward to reviewing all of these self-assessment notes alongside feedback from the course evaluations at the end of the semester. I also always welcome stories, suggestions, and teaching tips from other librarians—both from those who are newer to teaching like me, as well as from those who are experienced pros!

 

Teaching FCIL Research Series: A New FCIL Librarian’s Very First FCIL Research Course

By Meredith Capps

Following in the footsteps of past newbie FCIL librarians, I write to share my experience teaching my first for-credit FCIL research course.  At my institution, Transnational Legal Research is a one-credit, pass/fail class, offered once in an academic year in either the fall or spring.  Though it made for a busy fall semester, it seemed worthwhile to offer the course then, so as to benefit the 2L students on our transnational legal research journal at their point of need as they tackle initial cite-checking assignments and select note topics.

teachingfirstcourse.jpeg

Topic selection:

The FCIL course materials page, teaching materials from prior iterations of the course, and two texts: International and Foreign Legal Research: A Coursebook and International Legal Research in a Global Community, proved invaluable resources as I planned my course.  I identified treaties, international courts/tribunals, the UN, the EU, and foreign law as major topics covered in most FCIL research courses, and determined that I could cover custom, NGOs, and IGOs more generally in the conjunction with these.  Since many of our graduates initially accept positions at large law firms, I also felt that it would be worthwhile to spend a week on private international law and international commercial arbitration.

Reading:

Based on feedback from other FCIL librarians, I chose not to assign a textbook, and instead assigned chapters from International Legal Research In a Nutshell, which students could access online via their West Academic subscription, and a handful of articles and chapters from treatises and study aids in West.  I assumed that most students would not do the reading—a highly accurate assumption—requiring me to cover the most critical points in lecture; I posted lecture slides in the course page immediately after each class.

Assignments:

I designed in-class exercises to introduce key resources and skills, with more advanced or open-ended questions included in weekly, graded post-class assignments.  Here prior course materials again proved valuable, as for about half of my questions, I modified a research question used by a colleague.  Post-class assignments consisted of two research questions along with a reflection question, in keeping with the ABA’s focus on self-assessment for skills-based courses.

As a final project, I asked students to devise a fairly simply, practice-oriented hypothetical of their choosing involving transnational elements, and draft a research report detailing their process, along with a reference list of at least twelve sources, all of which should be evaluated within their research report.  Students described their projects in brief, five-minute presentations during our last class.

So, what did I learn?

  • My in-class assignments were always too lengthy and complex. Reduce and simplify!
  • My students seemed more engaged in class when divided into small groups to work on assignments. (I gave up, however, on asking students to demonstrate their work at the podium by class 4.)
  • I was a tad anxious that in assigning weekly, substantive assignments, I’d have too little time for grading during a busy time of year. Grading these assignments was a far lesser burden than I feared, and proved a valuable component of the course for several reasons:
    • they provided students an opportunity to practice skills discussed in class without time constraints,
    • they provided me a benchmark for student progress and comprehension, and
    • they provided me timely examples to review at the start of the next class and discuss common difficulties.
  • Allowing students to select their final project topics ensured that they researched a subject that was of interest to them, and often of use in other course or journal projects. I was pleasantly surprised by the variety of topics selected, though several were initially far too broad.
  • My greatest disappointment in the final projects was sloppy writing, which I perhaps should have anticipated in a pass/fail course! Alas, I will be adding spelling and grammar to my already detailed grading rubric.
  • In most instances, materials from colleagues provided me great ideas, but that I could not shortcut the effort of creating lectures and assignments that were current and suited to my own teaching style.

Overall, I was very pleased with the course, and took extensive notes on each assignment regarding students’ unexpected findings, difficulties, and ambiguities.  I also left this year’s IALL course with a host of ideas for future assignments!