Open Source Access to Scholarly Research

Legal Publishers and others are making it tough for law libraries to maintain many of their collections. For example, Since 1996 Thomson Reuters (West) has dramatically raised the prices of its print titles, both for new sets and, more significantly, for upkeep. Svengalis in his 2016 Legal Information Buyer’s Guide and Reference Manual, tracks 24 popular Thomson Reuter titles and provides a supplementation upkeep cost over a 21 year period, 1995-2015. The average price increase over the 21-year period was 779%. Svengalis also track 20 selective Lexis titles, which increased 299% over the same period. By comparison, the consumer price index rose only 58% during the same time.

With such dramatic increases by commercial publishers, open-source advocates are finding ways to combat the high cost of publications. Wikipedia defines open source access as “. . . online research outputs that are free of all restrictions on access . . . and free of many restrictions on use . . .” Two such entities include the Open Access Button and Unpaywall.

open access buttonBoth are open-source, nonprofit, and dedicated to improving free access to scholarly research. Both scour thousands of institutional repositories (like our ScHOLAR), preprint servers (i.e., SSRN), and other websites to see if an open-access copy of the article is available.

The Open Access Button (OAB) is a browser bookmarklet that is invoked when users hit articles behind a subscription-based site. The OAB will search open access sites for the piece. Both OAB and Unpaywall work similarly.

unpaywallHowever, unlike OAB, Unpaywall uses extensions, which are currently available for Chrome and Firefox. When an Unpaywall user lands on the preview page of a research article and will see either a green unlocked tab or a grey locked tab.  If the tab is green, he or she can click on that tab to view the PDF. See graphic below.

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Microsoft Academic and the Law Library’s ScHOLAR

Microsoft Academic is a digital repository. It claims to compile “. . . the most personally relevant papers, research news, conferences, people, and ideas, powered by artificial intelligence (AI) bots that read, understand, and deliver the scientific information to further your work.” The information, which is mostly scientific in nature, is organized into 19 fields of study. Depending on the amount of data, each field of study is further classified into various subtopics. Law, for example, is found under Sociology.
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One can search each field of study for news, papers, or a combination of both. For example, a search for “criminal procedure” (without the quotes), retrieves over 8,000 hits. Date, author, affiliation, the field of study, and journal title can then further refine the results. All papers are available for download. Also, the citation count of each article is available. Microsoft describes the citation count as an “estimation based on a statistical model which takes advantage of both the local statistics of individual publications and the global statistics of the entire academic graph to determine the estimates of citation counts.”
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arturo blog 3.jpgNot unlike Microsoft Academic, the Law Library’s ScHOLAR, in part, collects, preserves, and makes available the scholarly papers of the Texas Tech University School of Law faculty. ScHOLAR encompasses more than just faculty scholarship, though. In addition to Law Faculty Scholarship, ScHOLAR contains four additional “communities” or collection types—Special Collections, Law School History, Law Library History, and Regional Legal History. For example, under the Law School History collection, one can find some interesting information about the School’s past. One can read about two of our most respected, senior members of the faculty—Professor Weninger’s Jail Term Findings (p. 6) and Professor Krahmer’s accomplishments (p. 5)—in the 1984 issue of Cornerstone­­­­ (a magazine for the alumni, friends, and supporters of the Texas Tech School of Law). A little exploring can turn up fascinating historical tidbits about the history of the law school.
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How to Reduce Stress in Three Minutes

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We realize that the typical law student will experience stressful situations during his or her law school career. To that end, we previously have posted information on stress reduction resources available in the Law Library and useful stress reduction advice. Both of these pieces lightly touch on some key aspects of mindfulness. What exactly is mindfulness? Mindfulness can be defined as being in a state of hyper-consciousness fully focused on the present moment. No time for past, present or future judgments here. The many benefits of mindfulness are scientifically proven. If willing, anyone can participate in various mindfulness techniques and practices. No special skills are required. One method that I have found helpful is the 3-minute breathing space (3MBS) technique. I like it because it takes only 3 minutes!

  1. Minute One. Relax and let your thoughts go wild. Again, no judgments just experience the wide kaleidoscope of thoughts flowing and out.
  2. Minute Two. Next, narrow the focus of your thoughts. Focus on your breathing. Unlike minute one, your thoughts here are very fixated.
  3. Minute Three. Finally, focus on the sensations of the body. These can be in one particular area or various areas of the body.

Do you have 3-minutes to spare? Try the 3MBS technique next time you are faced with a stressful situation and pressed for time. Who is not these days?

Internet Resources Available Through Law Library

As you may already know, the Law Library has a tremendous amount of electronic databases to meet just about every research need. You may not know however that the Law Library also has a fantastic, rich compilation of online Internet resources organized by subject. These are resources that are free to anyone with Internet access. Compiled and organized by our law librarians, this page contains hundreds of free, special-interest resources. Resources are grouped by subject, then by category. Below is an alphabetical listing of the various subjects found on this page.

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Just to highlight one of the Subjects, below is a listing of the type of resources that are included within the Environmental Law topic. The links provided for each of the respective subjects are a great way to find background information on a research topic.

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If you would like to suggest an Internet Resource, add to this list, or find a needed correction, please let us know at reference.law@ttu.edu.

Law Library Resources for Stress-Free Law Student and Attorney Careers

It’s no secret that law school and law practice are demanding endeavors. The legal literature is replete with articles on the subject. In addition to the law school’s many student resources, the Law Library has you covered. The Law Library has numerous books in its collection that directly relate to coping with the demands of law school and beyond. Some of these books are temporarily behind the circulation desk on course reserve—stress relief. Below are a few sample books that you might find useful and can be checked out.

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  1. Yoga for Lawyers (KF 310 A43 L67 2014)

The authors are both law graduates and know firsthand the demands of law school. With photos and description of various Yoga poses, this book covers such topics as Restorative Yoga, Yoga in the office and on the go, meditation and calming the mind just to name a few.  According to the authors, the books offers “techniques that can be practiced at home, in the office, and even while taking a break in court.” They claim that their techniques, “can help you improve your law practice by shaping your ability to concentrate and bettering your overall state of mind and well-being.”

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  1. The Anxious Lawyer: An 8-Week Guide to a Joyful and Satisfying Law Practice Through Mindfulness and Meditation (KF 298 C47 2016)

This book provides a straightforward 8-week introductory program on meditation and mindfulness, created by lawyers for lawyers. For example, the book covers topics on:

  • Simple meditation techniques
  • Guidance for establishing a daily meditation and mindfulness practice
  • Practical tools, including access to guided meditations and worksheets that allow one to track his or her progress

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  1. The Reflective Counselor: Daily Meditations for Lawyers (KF 298 C633 2008)

This work offers a meditation-a-day, designed for law students and lawyers alike. Each daily entry includes an introductory quotation, followed by a reflection which is intended to inspire the reader toward optimal performance and well-being.

Remember, these and other books are currently located behind the Law Library circulation desk on course reserve. Stop by and browse at your leisure. The law librarians and staff are here to help you succeed in law school and beyond.