Friday, 7 September 2007

Law students' information literacy skills

Ian Gallacher (who teaches legal writing at Syracuse law school) reports the results of a law student information literacy study he did in a very interesting new paper on SSRN. The hourlong internet survey of 740 students at 7 law schools was conducted in the summer of 2006 and was designed to gather information about law student reading, writing, and research habits. The paper on SSRN is chock full of interesting graphical displays of the collected data and includes information about gender differences in law student reading, writing and research.
As we might expect, students are using the internet more than the library to do their research.
When asked where they conduct research, 11.3% said they always use the internet for research, and 40.1% said they usually use the internet but will sometimes use the library. By contrast, 25.1% said they use the internet and library about the same amount for their research needs, 5.9% said they usually use the library but will sometimes use the internet, and only 0.4%, or three students, answered that they always research in the library and never use the internet. According to Gallacher, law students have a sense that the physical library retains some role in performing legal research but believe the internet is a more important source of legal information. Among the conclusions he reaches is that teaching legal research with an underlying assumption that first year law students have basic information literacy skills may be flawed - even though the 1L students are generally very confident about these skills.

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