CLE conference, day 2, session 1

by Paul Maharg on 17/06/2017

First up today, Lisa Davies, on ‘Law PORT: an online training initiative to improve the legal information literacy skills of PhD researchers across the UK.’  Lisa is a law librarian from IALS.  She introduced what IALS Library does, including the roadshows.  To expand reach, their latest initiative is Law PORT – postgrad online research training.  They are: online tutorials, free, interactive, sharing the knowledge of IALS’ librarians and helpful to law students.  They surveyed law PhD students re confidence levels in research and support they receive.  PIL was the first subject – two tutorials, on customary international law and treaties & conventions, and the tutorials are based on IALL Guidelines for PIL Research Instruction.  Second subject was OSCOLA – there was huge demand for support in this area.

Software used was Articulate Storyline.  Lisa demonstrated it – it looked clean and helpful, certainly worth looking at if you’re involved in PIL research or using OSCOLA.  Her reflections – be realistic, choose smaller topics, research available software options, use a knowledgeable learning technologist (especially to help with Articulate).  At questions I asked about any support for OSCOLA and Zotero (given the aims are to provide open resources).  Zotero users out there — IALS is working on it…  Good to hear because OSCOLA is in my experience not a helpful citation system.

Second paper was Jenny Kemp, on ‘Supporting international LLM students with the aid of corpus linguistic technologies’.  So refreshing to see someone from adult education and HE support talking to legal academics, and to be talking about corpora as well.  As she says in her handout ‘corpus linguistic technology provides us with both the tools and an associated methodology for studying language patterns.  This paper will show how corpus linguistics can help LLM students develop the vocabulary they need for their studies’.  Jenny was interested in supporting understanding of general academic lexis as well as discipline-specific lexis, and introduced how a corpus (a principled collection of texts for quantitative and qualitative analysis) could be used to help students.  Corpora help us decide what to teach our students and why.  She gave examples.  She applied a law report to N-Gram Phrase Extractor, which gave ranking lists of complex words and phrases.  Students struggled with phrases related to the case, referring to other cases and acts/treaties, referring to the document itself.  She then analysed the text in detail with students.  Awareness raising first, then extraction (by students in notebooks), then guided or free-er practice, identify their errors, correct them, etc.  She seemed to be using Wordtree – British Academic Written English Corpus.  Jenny shows students how to create their own corpus, a process that helps them with their own writing, and with avoiding plagiarism.

With reference to her own doctoral research, Jenny noted that there were very few legal corpora.  So she is building a discipline-specific vocabulary core (DSVC), law specific, 1.8M words, with primary texts (ie prescriptive eg acts, treaties, and hybrid, eg cases) and secondary texts (text books), and subdivided into 12 subcorpora (Company law, etc).

No intervention studies, but this was a fascinating talk.  So many interesting issues – eg an interface suite of software to help students use corpora online?  Teaching students how corpora have been used by bibliographers for decades now, how it links to more mathematical approaches to data analysis that we saw yesterday at Ludwig Bull’s talk.

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