Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Reminder That No One Database Offers All the Journals You Need

A useful reminder today on Slaw.ca from John Papadopoulos (University of Toronto) about the inconsistent coverage of Canadian Law Journals on Commercial Databases.

As part of a law journal table of contents project, law librarians at the University were surprised to found out that even the small number of publications being tracked were found on a wide variety of online platforms (with less overlap than expected), with many journals not being available electronically at all.

This is an important issue when training new employees in legal research (starting tomorrow, we begin training a new batch of law clerks at my place of work). My experience is that many researchers become used to searching in one or maybe two tools when looking for commentary, forgetting that no one vendor or platform provides anything close to comprehensive coverage, even for Canadian scholarly content.

As Papadopulos writes:

"Looking at things another way, if I was expecting to get one stop shopping - of my 66 journals I would find:

- 24 of them on Lexis
- 25 of them on West
- 30 of them on Hein (not all would be current)"

"I guess there are a couple of lessons here. One, it looks like neither of these sources has a clear competitive advantage in their journals coverage. The second is one that my library mentor Ted Tjaden made sure I understood when I joined UofT: if you are doing journal research and want to know what has been written on a specific topic use an index - full-text searching is (still) not enough."

In our training sessions where I work, we try to explain to people that they need to learn more than one journal database, to get beyond their "favourite" source. People need to be shown how to break their habit of always only going to Westlaw or Quicklaw or whatever.

One way of doing that is through link resolver software that provides users with a web form in which they can enter an article citation and be shown which databases licensed by the library have the corresponding full text with the option then of clicking through to the actual article.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 8:48 pm

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