Where Did You Get That Last Time?

This tip was inspired after answering a question from memory that I should have documented back in 2009.

As legal researchers, we find nuggets of useful information from sources that are both transparent and obscure.  Transparent because they are the logical source of the information we seek and obscure in that if we hadn’t connected with exactly the right person at the exactly right time we would not necessarily have found the information in the form or with the context that we did.

Document your sources in detail. Don’t trust that your memory will be available (or working properly) in the moment that the details about past research need to be unearthed. There is nothing wrong with a memo to file (or to your general research tips file that you share with colleagues) about how you found something.

A snippet of Ani DiFranco song lyric “Each breath is recycled from someone else’s lungs” could be rescripted for legal research this way, “Each question’s recycled at some point or another”.  Make your future work easier by documenting today’s details.


  1. At Courthouse Libraries BC, we run into this so often that we created a searchable database of questions that get asked infrequently. It’s available to everyone at http://www.courthouselibrary.ca/training/AskedAndAnswered.aspx

  2. Bravo! I am so glad to see you advocating this sort of self-focused Knowledge Management. I’ve believed for decades that knowledge capture is more successful when it’s simply part of your daily routine, and when what you’ve captured is going to save you time sometime in the future.

    I’ve been using this approach ever since my second DMS consulting project eight years ago. It certainly pays off: makes repetitive tasks more efficient, and allows me to answer questions more thoroughly down the line.

    Once the information is captured, I can decide where to share it, depending on how wide an audience might be interested. I don’t see it as giving away free candy (meaning lost opportunities): it’s more like handing out free information appetizers and inviting people to come visit our restaurant for a full meal.

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