Today’s Tip is by 3rd year University of Alberta law student Elsa Johnson in honour of law student week at Slaw.
I am actually writing a research paper at this very moment, and I was thinking back on first year research and how overwhelming it was. I’m not sure if this is a good “tip” or not, but what really stressed me out was not so much finding material (with all the databases and programs you are almost sure to find a ton of information), it was how to know when you have done enough.
I would always think “Is this really the law? What if there is another case out there? What if there is a better article out there? How do I know I have found all the important stuff?”
After researching for a Professor last summer I figured out some pretty good indicators that you have reached the end of the road.
For cases: if I started to see the same cases cited over and over, up to the most recent SCC decisions, and cross referenced those back to the others I had found with not a lot new or recent popping up, I could be pretty sure that I had hit all the important cases.
For articles/scholarly work: again, when the trail started to get circular, and cross referencing was not turning up anything novel, I could be pretty sure I had covered off the scholarly thought in the area.
Editor’s Note: Elsa is looking forward to the Head Start Program offered by the Edmonton Law Libraries Association this June 21 and 22 in Edmonton. I am looking forward to working with Elsa at Field Law where she is joining us as an articling student for 2012-13.