Interdisciplinary Research Workshop for Law School Students – 2016

Interdisciplinary Research Workshop for Law School Students
Spring 2016


This workshop will introduce students to the complex relationship between research and technology.  It offers a systematic approach to finding information in today’s digital environment. It is an introduction to the multiple facets of legal research, which sometimes requires so much additional research before one can really focus on 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 statistics?” “What is the quantitative method you used to reach this results?” are just mere examples of the complexities of todays’ 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 each workshop will be structured as it follows: In the first 5 mins of each workshop, the class will analyze the research problem. The following 10 minutes the class will come up with a research strategy which may or may not include the research approach the instructor will teach. For the next 15 minutes the class will try to reach results using their known methodology.  During the last 30 minutes of the class the instructor will guide the class through research implementing a specific strategy or using a specific database. The focus of each class is to achieve correct results using the most efficient research method.

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

  • You will need to bring your own laptop as this will help with your work.
    • This workshop is developed during the course of the entire Spring Semester.
      • It will last 13 weeks (13 one-hour sessions).
      • It starts on January 20 and it will end on April 20.

Teaching team:

Dana Neacsu, Ph.D., reference law librarian and lecturer-in-law, will act as the teaching coordinator and will make sure that each class is relevant to law students.  Dana will attend all classes and answer any law related research questions.

Because this is an interdisciplinary research workshop, experts in various areas of research will lead each class. Ian, Beilin, Amanda Bielskas, Tara Das, Kathleen Dreyer, Bob Scott, Ashley Jester, Candice Kail, Julia Marden, Mark Newton, and R. Marty Witt, all officers of instruction and librarians, will co-teach specific classes.


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

JGH – Room 646, Wednesday, January 20, from 12:10 – 1:10 PM.

  • Instructor: Amanda & Dana
  • Topics:
    • What is interdisciplinary legal research?
    • Why do law students need to know anything other than legal research?
    • How do you manage your research data?

    a. Strategy?
    b. Research tools?
    c. 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:

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

Hypothetical 2: How hard is it to find any relevant data, such as gun ownership by county?



Week 2 – Developing Research Strategies: Theories and Data. What comes first? (I)

JGH – Room 646, Wednesday, January 27, from 12:10 – 1:10 PM.

  1. Instructor: Ian & Dana
  2. Topics:
    • Find the theory to support your argument.  
      • Strategy
      • Resources

Research Problem 1. What happens when you need to find the historical and linguistic meaning of the Second Amendment? Do you start with a search for guns in history, or a search of historical interpretation of the Second Amendment?

Research Problem 2: Where to do you to find articles on criminal behavior and cognitive dissonance? What is the impact of remorse when analyzing criminal behavior?

 Research Problem 3: You would like to write a note on cloud computing, regulatory compliance, and student privacy. You need to start with a preemption check.

  1. What is your strategy
  2. What databases will you cover?
  3. What research terms?



  • Indexes v. Full text Searches
  • CLIO & Pegasus
  • WestlawNext &  LexisAdvance & Bloomberglaw


Class Presentation

Week 3 – Developing Research Strategies: Theories and Data. What comes first? (II)

JGH – Room 646, Wednesday, February 3, from 12:10 – 1:10 PM.

  1. Instructor: Ian & Dana
  2. Topics:
    • How do you find the facts which will make your theory meaningful? What comes first? Theory? Facts? 
      • When do you dive in database searches
      • When do you use literature searches as a strategy to find data?
        • Strategy
        • Resources

Research Problem 1.

Since April 2014 Flint, Michigan residents have been drinking only highly polluted water. Are there grounds for a public nuisance suit? What about a criminal suit? Can you access both supporting data and theory?

Research Problem 2.

Defendant, 26, had been a long-time user of psychotic drugs when he stabbed two neighbors to death. His defense attorney did not argue that his immediate remorse was evidence that the stabbing was the result of a drug-induced stupor. If you were his defense attorney,

a)    What strategy would you use to find mitigating data (locate literature or locate datasets in specific databases)?
b)    Would your approach matter from a researcher’s perspective?

    • Fee-based: Web of Knowledge, ProquestHealth & Medical Complete; Medline
    • Free of charge: Academic Commons, Google, Google Scholar

Background information:

 Research Problem 3: Is there a way of proving that young, black and Latino men who comprise 4.6 percent of the New York City’s population, accounted for an astounding 41.6 percent of the 685,724 Stop, Question and Frisk stops in 2011?

a)    What strategy would you use to find your data (locate literature or locate datasets in specific databases)?
b)    Would your approach matter from a researcher’s perspective?

 Class presentation


Week 4 – Introducing reference management tools

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

  1. Instructor: Bob & Dana
  2. Topics:
    • What is “Reference Management?” Why do you need it? Once you found the relevant literature you need to manage it. How do you do it? What are the best tools for it?

Research problem:

New York’s so-called “stop and frisk” law was first passed in 1964.The 1964 bill was sponsored by Julius Volker, a Republican member of the New York State Assembly from Erie County, because courts were suppressing evidence of crimes where the initial stop of the suspect was on less than probable cause.

Currently, the statute, titled “Temporary questioning of persons in public places,” reads:

In addition to the authority provided by this article for making an arrest without a warrant, a police officer may stop a person in a public place located within the geographical area of such officer’s employment when he reasonably suspects that such person is committing, has committed or is about to commit either (a) a felony or (b) a misdemeanor defined in the penal law, and may demand of him his name, address and an explanation of his conduct.

Research question:

1. Find several secondary sources to consult in preparation for writing a brief opposing the current “stop and frisk” law;
2. Organize those sources in Bluebook format; and
3.  How would you create a list of authorities for those sources?

Reference management tools:

  • Zotero, Mendeley, Endnote.

More law-oriented reference tools:

  • Using the Bluebook
  • Using Lexis for Microsoft Office (LMO) (Available to 2Ls and 3Ls: log into you will then need to click Productivity Tools on the left side of the page.   The LMO download link is available under the section called Law Practice Resources: (brochure could not be attached)

Class Presentation

Week 5 – Collaboration and file management

JGH – Room 646, Wednesday, February 17, from 12:10 – 1:10 PM.

  1. Instructor Mark & Dana
  2. Topics:
     What if classmates could share their notes with each other in real time? How would they do it? 

Research problem: In getting ready to sue Nike for their planned Memphis expansion you need to piece together research performed by a team of lawyers and investigators located in different places. Inter alia, you need to create a report covering the news, the corporate filings, the lawsuit history.

a. How much can you achieve in 15 min?
b.What if you want to write the report together?

What is your strategy?

  •  Asynchronous and synchronous collaboration;
  • When do we use Google Docs? Google Drive?
  • When is Anthropia appropriate? iCloud? Office 365?

 Week 6 –Data mining & interpretation – how do you decide that you have enough facts to support a legal theory?

JGH – Room 646, Wednesday, February 24, from 12:10 – 1:10 PM.

Before we reach the threshold which separates mere facts from facts which can be sued to build a lawsuit, let’s talk about finding those facts.

1. Instructor: Ashley & Dana

2.  Topics:

  • Strategies for choosing the relevant information (domestic databases)

Research problem 1  – You are the leader of citizens’ rights group, and you are concerned about pollution of local waterways.  You want to gather information about the water quality and known polluters (i.e., those entities that have obtained pollution permits) and cross-reference this data with health outcomes.)

  • EPA EnviroFacts (combined database that provides profiles of locales):
  • EPA WATERS (comprehensive database & toolkit that combines various data sources):
  • EPA EDG GeoViewer (part of WATERS, allows you to select geographic areas and download data):
  • CDC Main data portal:
  • CDC WONDER (topic specific database, especially good for tracking specific diseases):
  • American FactFinder (general demographic/socioeconomic data from the Census Bureau; contains data from many surveys, not just the decennial Census):


  • Strategies for choosing the relevant information (international databases)

Research problem 2  –

You provide in-house counsel services to a company which produces agricultural products. You would like to identify markets that would be good targets for growing your exports.

You are also interested in identifying markets with which we have preferential or regional trading agreements as well as any regulations in place governing trade with particular markets.

Class Presentation

Week 7 – Data mining & Interpretation: searching patent documentation 

JGH – Room 646, Wednesday, March 2, from 12:10 – 1:10 PM.

1.      Instructor: Dana 
2.      Topics: Before filing for a patent, you need to do a preemptive check.

Research Problem:  What is the most efficient way to search for patents and standards?

Finding Patents:

Search’tips:’basic’strategy’ (Thanks to Jeff Lancaster)

Step1:Keyword search in Patent Index
Step2: Identify important classifications
Step3: Search granted patents and/or patent applications
Step4: Review documents
Step5: Check cited and citing references
Step 6: Repeat if necessary

Finding Standards: A standard is a document that provides requirements, specifications, guidelines, or characteristics that can be used consistently to ensure that materials, products, processes, and services are fit for their purpose.’

The important thing to remember is that standards change. Make sure you pay attention to when the standard was created and if it has been updated. For research purposes, you may be interested in historical standards.


IEEE–Standards Association
NISO–National Information Standards Organization
W3C–World Wide Web Consortium

Class Presentation





Week 8 – Data mining: Best practices for locating government documents, whether foreign, international or domestic

JGH – Room 646, Wednesday, March 9, from 12:10 – 1:10 PM.

1.      Instructor: Tara & Dana
2.      Topics: what happens when government documents, while freely available are hard to locate?

Research Problem 1: What is the connection between guns and public health? Is there data to support any findings?

Open source data / Data scraping to open up data

  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

Research Problem 2: Creating a false appearance of active trading in the market by investors is a domestic and international problem. Can it be regulated?

Research Problem 3. Finding the history behind specific federal agency rules is hard. Sometimes it is hard to become aware of how comprehensive their history is. Here is an alternative way of keeping track of the evolution of such a rule.

Road map:

  • Situations:
  • Strategy
  • Database choice

Class Presentation

Week 9  – Data mining & interpretation –Alternative resources for lawyers.

JGH – Room 646, Wednesday, March 23, from 12:10 – 1:10 PM.

  1.  Instructor: Julia & Dana
  2. Topics: How do you use non-legal databases to prepare for litigation? What about a job interview?

Research Question 1:

Best Buy, a corporation with business in all 50 states, has recently been alerted that customers in “open carry” states are bringing fire arms into the stores. Complaints have been received by the management from other customers made uncomfortable by the implied threat of violence. The management is afraid of taking action and barring the gun owners from entering the stores because of “social media pressure.”

How can we make sure that indeed there is such social media pressure? How can we investigate if other corporations have engaged in such policies of asking customers to leave their guns outside?

  • Should we engage in sentiment analysis?

Research Question 2– Getting ready for a job interview you need to know about the judge you will be clerking for; or the law firm you want to work for the next few years; or about future colleagues.

  1. Strategy
  2. Search engines
  3. Database choice
  • Do not forget + social media sites.
  • Here are some search engines you may find interesting for harvesting the world of various social media sites:

Social Intelligence  This site offers social media screening and investigative services including employment background checks, insurance claims investigations, corporate due diligence, government services, and more. Social Intelligence provides custom-tailored solutions for human resources, insurance, corporate, and government to help organizations leverage the benefits of social media research while reducing costs, time, and legal risks.

 Social Searcher  When you go to this site, the default option is to search Facebook but there are also search options for twitter, Google +, MySpace and LinkedIn. The tool gives quite a good listing on these platforms.

 Socialmention  Realtime social media search and analysis.


Class Presentation


Week 10 – Data mining & interpretation – Business databases for lawyers.

JGH – Room 646, Wednesday, March 30, from 12:10 – 1:10 PM.

1.      Instructor: Yasmin & Dana
2.      Topics:

  • Merger and acquisitions; taxes; ESG
  • Best strategies and best database choice
  • Free and fee-based databases

Research problem 1: Let’s study  Allergan – Pfizer merger and tax inversion. What is a tax inversion?

  • Merger steps
  • Search SEC filings for a drug merger
  • Look at Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) data for these companies.



  1. MSCI GMI analyst (for ESG data)
  2. Thomson ONE
  3. Factiva
  4. EDGAR (

Research problem 2: A federal study on a mysterious noise that vexes Windsor, Ont., residents has gathered evidence the disturbance is real and is pointing fingers across the Canada-U.S. border at the blast furnaces of an American steel mill.

The locals call the nuisance the “Windsor Hum,” a periodic pulsating, vibrating noise that has bedevilled residents for some time. They would like to sue but then do not know who the defendant would be and whether it is a viable corporation.

  • Identify potential parties (who is the defendant)
  • Is the defendant solvent?
  • What databases can you use (free-of-charge; fee-based. When?)


  1. Factiva;
  2. ThomsonONE

Class Presentation

Week 11 –Data mining & Interpretation: legislative history & case law docket research 

JGH – Room 646, Wednesday, April 6, from 12:10 – 1:10 PM.

1.      Instructor: Dana 
2.      Topics: 

Question 1: What is the best way to research legislative history?

Proquest v. Google – legislative history;
Gov.Docs v. HeinonLine – administrative history;
Travaux Preparatoires on the Library of Congress Website

Question 1: You need the legislative history various NAFTA provisions.

  • Where do you start?

Question 2: It is not only in the movies where spurned lovers viciously attack each other. In So I Married an Axe Murderer, audiences come across such a situation. But what if your client is accused of attempting to poison her romantic rival, and causing her chemical burns?

  • Does the Chemical Weapons Convention Implementation Act of 1998, which makes it a federal crime to use or possess any chemical weapon, apply to such local misconduct?
  • Can you locate any relevant court decisions, on ongoing litigation?
  •  What about legal briefs?

Question 3: The reality TV celebrity, licensed broker, Mark Markus of Mad Life and Money with Mark Markus was recorded making a private phone call to his wife, Mary, a solo broker, whose firm is called MadLife & Wife, for about 45 seconds. The recording happened because Mark forgot to turn off his microphone.
The tape contained the following sentence. “I’ve just heard that Larry is going to China and will dine out.” Minutes later, Mary Markus made large purchases of Google stock. This was the first time she had bought across all of her family accounts at once. Hours later, after the market closed, on Mark Markus’ show, Larry Page announced that Google has reached a historic deal with Baidu, while Baidu’s owner made a video appearance from Beijing. The following morning Mary sold her shares in Google at a net profit of $3 million dollars.
Mary Markus is under investigation for insider trading. The district attorney’s office wants to use Mark Markus’ recoding of his phone conversation as evidence to convict her of the securities fraud crime and him of conspiring. Can the DA do it?

  • When your case law research brings no results, search dockets
    • to find useful information to strategize your defense;
    •  to find experts opining on this issue.

Making Docket Research PalatableDocket search options:


1. PlainSite

2. PacerPro,

  • FREE access to their archive
  • it provides batch downloads and better search capabilities than Pacer 
  • still expensive to download/print
  • if you use pacer, make sure to add the free extension RECAP.

2. DocketFish is another one-stop, full-service solution which offers

  • FREE access to the DocketFish database of dockets and documents (with Pacer account).
  • Eliminate PACER charges for duplicate downloads.

 For a fee:

1. Docket Alarm

2. Bloomberglaw (included in the regular licensing agreement)

3. LexisAdvance

4. Westlawnext







 Class presentation

Week 12 – Data mining & Interpretation– do you have the correct facts to support a legal theory?

JGH – Room 646, Wednesday, April 13, from 12:10 – 1:10 PM.

1.      Instructor:  Dana & Fadi
2.      Topics:

a.       Finding factual support for data
b.      Strategies and databases

 Research Problem: In this Ted Talk: you will hear a bunch of stats. But where do all these numbers come from? Please work in groups of 2-3 students. You have 15 minutes to find their source.

Research Questions:

  • Pollution

i.       Plastic cups on airlines (number of)
ii.       Papercups /day typically for coffee (number of)

  • Prison

i.       US percentage of population in prison

  • Use of drugs
  1.  number of Americans who die from cigarette in comparison to number of people who died in 9/11 tragedy;
  2. number of teenagers who will start smoking in US
  3.  number of ER visits due to abuse/misuse of prescription in comparison to total ER visits for abuse/misuse of drug.
  • Body Image;
  1. Most popular HS grad gift?/ Number of breast augmentation surgeries;
  2. subset of women under age of 21

Databases you may use:

For further use:

Research Guide and Databases:

  • General strategies for finding data
    1. Search the literature for references to data sources used for similar research
    2. Think about who would be most likely to have created/collected the data.  (Also important: why would they collect the data?)
    3. Would the data be freely available or could it be proprietary?
    4. Does it exist in an easily manipulated format or is it only available in print sources?
  •  General sources for social sciences data
  1. ICPSR – Depository for social science data
  2. Social Science data sites
  • Resources for economic analysis and data
  1. Resource guide on Economic Indicators

For country overviews and macroeconomic data:

  1. CEIC Data ManagerCEIC Data contains economic, industrial and financial time-series data and cover over 60 countries. Data comes from analysts on the ground and the prime national and regional statistical agencies and major industrial data issuing organizations of each country covered.
  2. Global Financial DataGlobal Financial Data contains historical financial and economic data on 200 countries. Data includes: long-term historical indices on stock markets; total return data on stocks, bonds, and bills; interest rates; exchange rates; inflation rates; bond indices; commodity indices and prices.
  3. Global InsightConsists of economic time series data and financial market data for various countries throughout the world. Includes country overviews and analysis as well as forecasts, commodities, demographics and other economic indicators.
  4. St. Louis Economic Data – FREDA database of 20,234 U.S. economic time series.
  •  Resources for government documents guides for finding government documents both in print and online:

 Databases with journal articles, scholarly research, and working papers

  1.  Business Source CompleteContains full-text scholarly business and economics journals.
  2. EconLitContains citations, abstracts and full text to economic research dating back to 1969. Contains journal articles, books, collective volume articles, dissertations, working papers, and full text book reviews from the Journal of Economic Literature.
  3. JSTORProvides page images of back issues of the core scholarly journals in the humanities and social sciences from the earliest issues to within a few years of current publication.
  4. Proquest DirectThis resource includes citations and full text articles in academic & professional disciplines, including business, economics, health, management, political science; as well as news and general interest items.
  5. SocINDEXComprehensive coverage of sociology, encompassing all sub-disciplines and closely related areas of study.
  6. Social Science Research Network (SSRN)Consists of abstracts and full text of scholarly working papers and forthcoming papers in areas of business and economics.