INFO 220-11
Resources and Information Services in the Disciplines and Professions
Topic: Legal Resources (2 units)
Spring 2019 Syllabus

Vicki Steiner, M.L.I.S., J.D.
Office Hours: By appointment via e-mail ( Please use INFO 220-11 in the subject line of all e-mail messages.

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Canvas Information: Courses will be available beginning January 24, 2019, at approximately 6:00 a.m. PT unless you are taking an intensive or a one-unit or two-unit class that starts on a different day. In that case, the class will open on the first day that the class meets.

You will be enrolled in the Canvas site automatically. This two-unit course runs from January 24 through March 22, 2019.

Course Description

While most students in the course do not have a legal background or training or do not intend to pursue a legal career, students in their careers as information professionals are nonetheless likely to be called upon to understand and to assist in addressing a legal information need. This course is designed to equip non-lawyer students with a range of skills that can be used to meet basic legal information needs.

This course focuses on techniques and concepts for effective legal research in print and online, including search strategies, exploration of search options, and understanding the legal information environment. The course includes extensive, hands-on experience with professional legal database services, including Westlaw, Nexis Uni, and HeinOnline, and comparison of professional legal search engines with those freely available online.

Topics include:

  • Conducting an effective legal reference interview
  • Evaluating primary and secondary legal resources
  • Employing effective legal search techniques and strategies, including database selection, concept analysis, search syntax, and validating legal authority
  • Citing to legal authority
  • Creating finding aids and instructional tutorials for clients needing legal information

Course Requirements

General Requirements:

  • Visit the Canvas course site daily to review important announcements and to engage actively in discussions.
  • Keep up with assigned readings and video recordings, and complete assignments and exercises to the best of your ability.
  • Submit all assignments by the stated due dates. Late assignments are not accepted, except in cases of serious sudden illness or family emergency, when said circumstances are communicated to the instructor before the due date.


Assignment Learning Objectives Points Deadlines


— Secondary Sources and Case Law Research

— Mock Legal Reference Interview

1234567 30


— 2/25

— 3/11


— Federal and State Legal Systems

— Statutory Law and Administrative Law

1234567 20


— 2/18

— 3/4

Final Project

5678 35 — 3/20


— Introduction 

— Legal Research Strategies

— Secondary Sources

— Mock Legal Reference Interview Discussion

— Final Project Discussion

— Evaluating Online Legal Resources

— Additional discussion topics are optional

1234567 15

— 1/28

— 2/4

— 2/11

— 3/11

— 3/20

— 3/22

TOTAL   100  

  • Exercises:

    • There are assigned exercises requiring searches using legal resources. In the second exercise, students will partner with one classmate to perform a mock legal reference interview, with one student serving as the information professional, and the other serving as the patron. Grading will be based on the student's search strategies, thought processes, and results of the searches, as well as reflections on each exercise. [Supports CLOs 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7]

  • Quizzes:

    • Quizzes will test understanding of key concepts covered in assigned course readings and video recordings. The quizzes are open-book and untimed. [Supports CLOs 12345,  67]

  • Online Discussion:

    • Active participation in discussions is an important component of online courses. Students are expected to post at least two substantive comments (at least one original post and one reply to a post) in each required discussion topic. [Supports CLOs 1234567.]

  • Final Project:

    • Students may choose one of the following for the final project: (1) an essay on a legal topic of their choosing, formatted using proper organization, grammar, and syntax; (2) a client project (a "client" may be a student, professor, family member, or friend who has a specific legal information need); or (3) a video tutorial or LibGuide on legal research techniques and concepts on a legal topic  or database of their choosing. Students must submit their proposed final project for instructor approval prior to submission. [Supports CLOs 5678.] 

Course Calendar

Week Topic Readings and Recordings Deadlines


Jan. 24-28


Tucker & Lampson: Chapter 1: The Structure of the Legal System in the United States; Glossary

Weekly Course Lecture 

Discussion 1/28


Jan. 29-Feb. 4


Tucker & Lampson: Chapter 5: Legal Research Basics; Chapter 15: What’s Online, What’s Not, and When to Use What

Weekly Course Lecture 

Discussion 2/4


Feb. 5-11


Tucker & Lampson: Chapter 2: Secondary Sources and Practice Manuals; Chapter 3: Federal Primary Sources (pp. 23-25)

Weekly Course Lecture 

Discussion 2/11


Feb. 12-18


Tucker & Lampson: Chapter 3: Federal Primary Sources (pp. 31-39)

Weekly Course Lecture 

Quiz 1 2/18


Feb. 19-25


Tucker & Lampson: Chapter 4: State and Local Law Primary Sources (pp. 52-58)

Weekly Course Lecture 

Exercise 1 2/25


Feb. 26-Mar. 4


Tucker & Lampson: Chapter 3: Federal Primary Sources (pp. 25-30); Chapter 4: State and Local Law Primary Sources (pp. 45-50)

Weekly Course Lecture 

Quiz 2  3/4


Mar. 5-11


Tucker & Lampson: Chapter 3: Federal Primary Sources (pp. 40-42); Chapter 4: State and Local Primary Law Sources (pp. 50-52)

Weekly Course Lecture 

Exercise 2, Mock Legal Reference Interview and Discussion 3/11


Mar. 12-22


Tucker & Lampson: Chapter 16: Evaluating the Trustworthiness of Websites and Self-Help Books

Weekly Course Lecture 

Final Project and Discussion 3/20

Wrap-Up Discussion 3/22


Recommended Texts

Please ensure that you purchase the most recent, 2018 edition of the required textbook, which is available on Amazon and through other booksellers. Recommended textbooks are suggested, though not required. Further information will be communicated to enrolled students via MySJSU before the class starts.

Additional Readings and Assigned Materials:

Readings in addition to the textbook will be assigned in the Canvas course site, including journal articles, book chapters, and system documentation from search vendors. There will also be video recordings assigned, which will be available in Canvas. Multiple formats will be made available.

Course Communications

The instructor will respond to emails and discussion questions within 24 hours. Assignments will be returned with feedback within 72 hours of submission, once all students have submitted their work for each assignment.

Course Workload Expectations

Success in this course is based on the expectation that students will spend, for each unit of credit, a minimum of forty-five hours over the length of the course (normally 3 hours per unit per week with 1 of the hours used for lecture) for instruction or preparation/studying or course related activities including but not limited to internships, labs, clinical practica. Other course structures will have equivalent workload expectations as described in the syllabus.

Instructional time may include but is not limited to:
Working on posted modules or lessons prepared by the instructor; discussion forum interactions with the instructor and/or other students; making presentations and getting feedback from the instructor; attending office hours or other synchronous sessions with the instructor.

Student time outside of class:
In any seven-day period, a student is expected to be academically engaged through submitting an academic assignment; taking an exam or an interactive tutorial, or computer-assisted instruction; building websites, blogs, databases, social media presentations; attending a study group;contributing to an academic online discussion; writing papers; reading articles; conducting research; engaging in small group work.

Course Prerequisites

INFO 220 has no prequisite requirements.

Course Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of the course, students will be able to:

  1. Describe the federal and state governmental units that make primary law and the types of primary law they make.
  2. Identify the major types of primary law and secondary authority for both federal and state jurisdictions.
  3. Locate the nearest brick-and-mortar law library and find materials in it.
  4. Identify and describe the relative merits and shortcomings of the major print and online (both "free" and "pay-for-view") legal resources.
  5. Use print and online sources to find the major types of primary law and secondary authority for both federal and state law.
  6. Answer questions from patrons about basic legal resources, and direct patrons to the best sources for legal information.
  7. Develop strategies for defining search terms to use with "finding tools" in print, online, and pay-for-view legal resources.
  8. Create guides ("pathfinders") for patrons needing legal information.

Core Competencies (Program Learning Outcomes)

INFO 220 supports the following core competencies:

  1. B Describe and compare organizational settings in which information professionals practice.
  2. I Use service concepts, principles, and techniques to connect individuals or groups with accurate, relevant, and appropriate information.
  3. J Describe the fundamental concepts of information-seeking behaviors.


Required Textbooks:

  • Tucker, V.M., & Lampson, M. (2018). Finding the answers to legal questions (2nd ed.). ALA Neal-Schuman. Available through Amazon: 0838915698arrow gif indicating link outside sjsu domain

Grading Scale

The standard SJSU School of Information Grading Scale is utilized for all iSchool courses:

97 to 100 A
94 to 96 A minus
91 to 93 B plus
88 to 90 B
85 to 87 B minus
82 to 84 C plus
79 to 81 C
76 to 78 C minus
73 to 75 D plus
70 to 72 D
67 to 69 D minus
Below 67 F


In order to provide consistent guidelines for assessment for graduate level work in the School, these terms are applied to letter grades:

  • C represents Adequate work; a grade of "C" counts for credit for the course;
  • B represents Good work; a grade of "B" clearly meets the standards for graduate level work or undergraduate (for BS-ISDA);
    For core courses in the MLIS program (not MARA, Informatics, BS-ISDA) — INFO 200, INFO 202, INFO 204 — the iSchool requires that students earn a B in the course. If the grade is less than B (B- or lower) after the first attempt you will be placed on administrative probation. You must repeat the class if you wish to stay in the program. If - on the second attempt - you do not pass the class with a grade of B or better (not B- but B) you will be disqualified.
  • A represents Exceptional work; a grade of "A" will be assigned for outstanding work only.

Graduate Students are advised that it is their responsibility to maintain a 3.0 Grade Point Average (GPA). Undergraduates must maintain a 2.0 Grade Point Average (GPA).

University Policies

Per University Policy S16-9, university-wide policy information relevant to all courses, such as academic integrity, accommodations, etc. will be available on Office of Graduate and Undergraduate Programs' Syllabus Information web page at: Make sure to visit this page, review and be familiar with these university policies and resources.

In order to request an accommodation in a class please contact the Accessible Education Center and register via the MyAEC portal.

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