Handouts & Guides


  • Algorithm Comparison

    Susan Nevelow Mart
    William A. Wise Law Library
    University of Colorado Law School
    2450 2450 Kittredge Loop Drive
    Boulder, CO 80309

    Algorithm Comparisons: The Truth About Easy Search

    The following PowerPoint has both illustrations and notes. The first slide can be used to illustrate the limits of algorithmic searching and the fact, startling to students, that every algorithm produces different, incomplete, and not always relevant results. The second slide can be used to illustrate the improvement in results with terms and connectors.

    WestlawNext and Google can be remarkably good – especially at getting a researcher started. They are incomplete, but so is every search. But Casemaker, Fastcase and even Lexis Advance are vastly improved by terms and connectors and Bloomberg ONLY uses terms and connectors.

    Students still need to know how to craft a decent search. I use the comparison charts of the same searches in four different databases using natural language to show the wildly varying results with algorithms, and the same searches using terms and connectors. I also use the slides to illustrate to students how database design is influencing their searches.

    I tell my (advanced) students to use both algorithms and terms and connectors, if there is no financial penalty for doing so. They each perform very different functions!

    The first slide shows the top ten results for the natural language search right to receive information in Lexis Advance, Casemaker, WestlawNext, and Google Scholar.  The second slide shows the top ten results for the terms and connectors search “right to receive information” in Lexis Advance, Casemaker, Bloomberg Law, and WestlawNext.  Cases highlighted in grey are relevant and unique, those highlighted in orange are relevant and appear in multiple databases, and those in white are irrelevant.

  • Banking Law Research Class

    Stefanie B. Weigmann
    Boston University School of Law
    Pappas Law Library
    765 Commonwealth Ave.
    Boston, MA 02215

    This was a one-credit, five session class on Banking and Finance Law Research.  Each class was 2 hours and 20 minutes.  The class covered statutes and legislative history in the first class, regulations in the second class, regulatory bodies and their publications (aside from regulations) in the third class, other state, international and NGO banking actors in the fourth class and financial information in the fifth class.  The model was to demonstrate resources, have the students complete a similar in class exercise and then a similar homework exercise.  The classes could be used as one unit or the various individual sessions could be used separately.

  • Health Law Class

    David Bachman
    Senior Legal Information Librarian
    Boston University Pappas Law Library
    765 Commonwealth Avenue
    Boston, MA  02215

    The class consisted of 5 class sessions, each 2-1/2 hours in length. The site has a separate tab for each class session, including an assignment and detailed outline, and subsidiary pages with links, instructive and descriptive content, and in-class exercises for students to submit answers. The class was tailored to topics and materials relevant in the weeks it was taught, but materials could be adapted and different examples used to illustrate the covered materials, including: federal legislation and regulations, case law, legislative history, state law materials, international health organization sites, secondary sources, research platforms such as BNA and CCH, and current awareness tools. I think most of the content is fairly self-explanatory. The most complete description of the material covered in each class is set out in the detailed outline for each session. There was no final examination, but the last class had an in-class exercise designed to require students to use many of the resources covered during the 5 class sessions.