Interdisciplinary Legal Research – Spring 2018

Interdisciplinary Research Workshop for Law School Students
Spring 2018


This workshop offers a systematic approach to finding information in today’s inter-disciplinary digital environment, focusing on the complex relationship between research and technology.  It is an introduction to the multiple facets of legal research, which often requires familiarity with research beyond finding statutes, cases, and administrative rules and regulations.  We will touch upon factual investigation, literature research, and of course, ways to manage all this information, whether you work alone on a project or as a team member.

Both the teaching and the practice of legal research are undergoing massive changes because of the explosion of technological developments. As a result, legal research is a completely different endeavor than it was just a couple of years ago, and it quite often depends on inter-disciplinary research. “What are the stats?” “What is the quantitative method you used to reach this results?” are just mere examples of the complexities of today’s research.


Among the objectives for this workshop, which will be developed through class lectures and discussions, research exercises, and source evaluations, are:

  • to learn the bibliographic and research characteristics of the specialized legal research tools and sources
  • to develop effective research techniques and strategies
  • to identify and compare available media options when performing interdisciplinary research
  • to make appropriate media choices for different research situations
  • to understand research within the context of the wider world of research


Each workshop session is designed to teach the student a specific research task and familiarize them with specific research strategies. At the end of each session the student should feel confident in using the approach taught. In order to achieve this goal, the tasks of each workshop will be detailed on this blog, so the students can attempt to research the hypothetical in advance of the workshop. To achieve “flipping the classroom”, the Prezi presentation will present the research plan, while the attached PowerPoint will walk you through the databases involved. During the workshop, the students will be introduced to the day’s hypo, given 5 minutes to analyze it on their own, then, a brief presentation of the resources will follow and an in-depth discussion of the best way of finding the answer to the question presented. The focus of each class is to achieve correct results using the most efficient research method, given the access students have to Columbia University databases.

We will meet in JGH – Room 646, which is located on the 6th floor in Jerome Green Hall -the Law School building – Thursdays from 12:10 – 1:10 PM.

  1. Students need to bring their own laptop to perform the research.
  2. This workshop will last 7 weeks (7one-hour sessions).
  3. It starts on January 18 and it will end on March 1.


Week 1 – Why Interdisciplinary Research in Law: Data Mining and Information Management

JGH – Room 646, Thursday, January 18, from 12:10 – 1:10 PM.


Instructor: TBA  & Dana


What is interdisciplinary legal research?

Why do law students need to know anything other than legal research?

How do you manage your research data?

  1. Strategy?
  2. Research tools?
  3. Storage tools? (Google drive? WordPress cloud?)

Hypothetical 1:

In Roper v. Simmons, the US Supreme Court took into consideration a variety of scientific data, as the Brief for the American Psychological Association points out and the literature has discussed.

Using Roper v. Simmons, as our starting point let’s think about the following questions:

  1. Can you gather the relevant data?
  2. How can one find out how many such mentally ill people ended up in litigation (at the federal or state level)?
  3. How can you manage it?

PowerPoint Presentation1

Hypothetical 2:

In Mapp v. Ohio, 367 U.S. 643 (1961), the U.S. Supreme Court extended the due process protections of the exclusionary rule to include all “constitutionally unreasonable searches” that were done without a basis of probable cause. In the seven years after Mapp, homicide rates in the U.S. nearly doubled, riots broke out in at least forty-seven U.S. cities. During the same era, a heroin epidemic gripped the nation’s urban centers, giving rise to street drug markets and associated violence and pressures on law enforcement to curb those markets. As violence increased, a turn in the nation’s political culture questioned Mapp’s restraints on police discretion to stop and search criminal suspects. The result was Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968).

Can we find the data supporting the jurisprudentiaal change from Mapp to Terry?

Class Presentation

PowerPoint Presentation 2


Week 2 – Interdisciplinary Research in Law: Developing Research Strategies: Searching for supporting theories

JGH – Room 646, Thursday, January 25, from 12:10 – 1:10 PM.


Instructors: Sabrina Sondhi & Dana Neacsu


Find the theory to support your argument.  

  • Strategy
  • Resources


Week 3 – Interdisciplinary Legal Research:  Data Mining as Preliminary Research- Data vs. Theory (I)

JGH – Room 646, Thursday, February 1, from 12:10 – 1:10 PM.

Instructors: TBAi & Dana Neacsu

Research Question 1:

If, indeed, fake news had a crucial impact on our presidential elections, could we challenge the outcome of the 2016 presidential elections? On what ground?


Research Question 2:

If you needed to find the homicide data during 1985-2016 for US cities, how would you obtain it?

  1. NYPD Crash Data Bank-Aid
  2. FOIA & FOIL requests
  3. BetaNYC data portal
  4. FDNY Statistics
  5. I Quant NY
  6. Sunlight Foundation

Closed collections:

  1. ICPSR
  2. ProQuest Statistical Insight
  3. Historical Statistics of the United States
  4. DSSC data catalogs

Class presentation

Week  4 – Interdisciplinary Legal Research :  Data vs. Theory (II)

JGH – Room 646, Thursday, February 8, from 12:10 – 1:10 PM.

Instructors: TBA  & Dana Neacsu

Week 5 – Interdisciplinary Legal Research :  Data vs. Theory (III)

JGH – Room 646, Thursday, February 15, from 12:10 – 1:10 PM.


Week 6 – Interdisciplinary Legal Research :  Data vs. Theory (IV)

JGH – Room 646, Thursday, February 22, from 12:10 – 1:10 PM.


Week 7 – Interdisciplinary Legal Research :  Data vs. Theory (V)

JGH – Room 646, Thursday, March 1, from 12:10 – 1:10 PM.