Blog Post: Thinking About Process Over Platform in Research… “But lately, I Find Myself Making Excuses As To Why I Can’t Show Lexis Advance”

Here’s the post… words like ……trouble, clumsy don’t spell a happy 2014 for Lexis Advance

FEBRUARY 24, 2014
tags: Lexis, research instruction, Westlaw
by Shawn Friend
This semester, I’ve struggled with whether I need to show different research platforms when I teach research. In the past, I’ve shown the different options available; lately, I have a bias I need to which I must admit.  For the last six months or so, I’ve had trouble showing students (and even professors) Lexis.  I hate to be partisan.  I hate to show Westlaw’s product without showing Lexis’ too.  But lately, I find myself making excuses as to why I can’t show Lexis Advance.
I can’t because Lexis Advance does not do the things that I want to do as a researcher.  Lexis Advance seldom allows for drilling down to information through a table of contents.  Students cannot see the contents of a resource I am discussing, even when I get to it through browse sources.  The searching (even after the update last week) is often clumsy.
Twice in the last week, I had patrons ask specifically how to do something in Lexis Advance.  In both cases, I showed them the best option and they said “I guess I should use Westlaw.”  One wanted to find state statutes by popular name.  Not possible on Lexis.  Today I couldn’t even find the U.S.C.S. Popular Name Table in Lexis Advance (I think it might be there, but I couldn’t tell).  The other wanted to see a list of the Florida Secondary Sources available in Lexis Advance.  Of course, one can go to Browse Sources, narrow to Secondary Sources, and then select Jurisdiction.  But it’s clumsy in Lexis.
And I so badly want to show Lexis Advance.  There are so many reasons to:  the price (often lower than Westlaw); the higher usage by small firms and solos; my intrinsic sense of fairness.  And there are a couple of amazing things in Lexis Advance.  Their grid view for Shepard’s is my favorite updating tool.  Lexis’ coverage of bar journals is also very good.  Much of the rest of Lexis Advance is not great for law school research.
So, do I need to show the different platforms? I am beginning to think I don’t.  This is nothing new – law librarians used to be able to teach research by giving students a list of legal resources to review.  That bibliographic instruction technique no longer works well when there are hundreds of thousands of documents.  Teaching about research process and information use is better for legal research now.  For more on this, see Michael Chiorazzi & Shaun Esposito, Commentaries on Hicks’ ‘Teaching Legal Bibliography’: With an Addendum by Robert Berring, 28 Legal Reference Services Q. 9 (2009).
All the systems will be different in a couple of years, so if students learn the process of using resources really well they should be able to use any resource.  That is better than showing them Westlaw and Lexis and Bloomberg and LoisLaw and Fastcase and…well, you get the idea.  In fact, showing all the platforms may lead not to student comfort with the resources but instead to student confusion.
Again, this is nothing earth shattering, but I am going to let go of my guilt for not demonstrating Lexis and redouble my effort to teach process to new legal researchers instead of focusing on platform.
How are you handling personal preferences in teaching various platforms?