August 22, 2005
Information Literacy at the Graduate Level (and Beyond)
Christy A. Donaldson (Montana State University - Bozeman) discusses the application of a problem solving model created by McKinsey & Company to the teaching of information literacy to MBA students.
The abstract sums up her research well:
Many graduate students do not have the required skills and knowledge to do the research required at a graduate level. The key is creating an information literacy program that will teach our graduate students these skills. This paper proposes a program using the McKinsey strategic problem-solving model for teaching information literacy to MBA students. Collaboration between the business faculty members and university librarians is a key to the success of this program. The goals for information literacy are usually held in common by administrators, faculty, and librarians; but there has been controversy on campuses as to how to accomplish these goals. Using the McKinsey model, an integrated information literacy program can be created for graduate business students.
I have no opinion about the McKinsey model but I do know that the information illiteracy problem does not stop at the doors of B-School. Law Schools stand shoulder to shoulder with the shortcomings of B-Schools-- and they have done so for at least the 25 years I've been around.
When I was a law firm librarian, I found the bunk of my work during the early weeks and months after the Summer bar was retraining first year associates in how to do legal research, including research any paralegal would be required to know before being hired. After that, I still have to keep an eye on them until they moved pass their third year at the firm.
My utterly unscientific conclusion was (and remains) that first year associates who did not take an advanced legal research course before graduating law school were usually terrible researchers; they were virtually functionally illiterate. And the first year associates I'm referring to didn't graduate from also-ran schools. The firm I work at only hired the top 10 percent of the top 10 law schools. For me, this signals a systemic problem
My grip was then and remains today that the typical 1L Research and Writing Class neglects research because of the emphasis the course places on writing. (For the moment, lets just recognize without further comment that a contributing factor may be that non-librarians are trying to teach legal research based, most likely, on their own flawed law school training.) Working in an academic setting now, I must conclude that law schools which fail to offer advanced legal research are failing in their mission of preparing graduates for their careers. Personally I would like to see advanced legal research courses be required and be taught by experienced law librarians on staff and/or by libraian practitioners in the field serving as adjunct lecturers in legal research.
I hear the cringing now ... I know teaching these advanced legal research courses are a lot of work, but if we academic law librarians don't do it, firm, corporate, and other law librarians will have to do it. We are academic law librarians, aren't we; we are in the educational business. (Making advanced legal research a required course might justify hiring law librarians to help cover this teaching load.)
Here's the Ten Skills Needed by Graduate Students Conducting Research in the Information Age as published in Donalson's report. Do your law school students measure up, really measure up?
• Focus the topic (narrow the topic / broaden the scope).
• Work in reverse chronological order, searching the newest information first.
• Understand the significance of terminology and determine correct subject
• Vary the sources ([primary materials and secondary materials, such as) books, periodicals, Internet sites, etc.).
• Use Boolean strategies (and, or, not) in computer searches.
• Multiply sources by three (identify three times as many references as needed for
• Evaluate critically the material retrieved; be especially suspicious of sources from
• Assimilate the information; don’t plagiarize. Incorporate your own ideas based on
the research topic.
• Cite all sources.
We can quibble about some of the above listed skills, but I think we are know when we see legal research taught poorly.
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I agree. I am currently in a paralegal certification program and I am planning to enter a joint program including law school and the librarian profession. I am not getting the support that I need to learn legal research even now. This is not due to the teachers but due to the accellerated pace of the program.
Posted by: Athena42 | Aug 31, 2005 6:20:55 AM