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College of Professional and Global Education · School of Information

Resources and Information Services in Professions and Disciplines - Legal Resources
INFO 220

  • Spring 2023
  • Section 10
  • 2 Unit(s)
  • 02/08/2023 to 04/12/2023
  • Modified 05/22/2023

Canvas Information: Courses will be available February 8th, 6 am PT.

You will be enrolled in the Canvas site automatically.

Contact Information

Vicki Steiner, M.L.I.S., J.D.
Office Hours: By appointment via e-mail ([email protected]). Please use INFO 220-10 in the subject line of all e-mail messages.

Course Description and Requisites

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 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 and HeinOnline, and a 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

INFO 210.

Classroom Protocols


Students are expected to participate fully in all class activities. It is expected that students will be open-minded and participate fully in discussions in class and debate in a mature and respectful manner. Use of derogatory, condescending, or offensive language including profanity is prohibited. Disagreement is healthy and perfectly acceptable. Expressing disagreement should always include an explanation of your reasoning and, whenever possible, evidence to support your position. In accordance with San José State University's Policies, the Student Code of Conduct, and applicable state and federal laws, discrimination based on gender, gender identity, gender expression, race, nationality, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or disability is prohibited in any form.

Program Information

Course Workload

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 Goals

Core Competencies (Program Learning Outcomes) Supported

INFO 220 supports the following core competencies:

  1. B Describe and compare organizational settings in which information professionals practice.
  2. J Describe the fundamental concepts of information-seeking behaviors and how they should be considered when connecting individuals or groups with accurate, relevant and appropriate information.

Course Learning Outcomes (CLOs)

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.

Course Materials


Required Textbooks:

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

Course Requirements and Assignments

Assignment Learning Objectives Points Deadlines


— Secondary Sources and Case Law Research

— Mock Legal Reference Interview

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 30


— 3/13

— 4/3


— Federal and State Legal Systems

— Statutory Law and Administrative Law

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 20


— 3/6

— 3/20

Final Project

5, 6, 7, 8 35 — 4/12


— Introduction

— Legal Research Strategies

— Secondary Sources

— Mock Legal Reference Interview Discussion

— Final Project Discussion

— Additional discussion topics are optional

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 15


— 2/13

— 2/20

— 2/27

— 4/3

— 4/10

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 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7]

  • 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 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7.]

  • Final Project:

    • Students may choose one of the following for the final project: (1) a client project (a "client" may be a student, professor, family member, or friend who has a specific legal information need) or (2) 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 5, 6, 7, 8.]

Grading Information

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

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


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 (PDF), relevant university policy concerning all courses, such as student responsibilities, academic integrity, accommodations, dropping and adding, consent for recording of class, etc. and available student services (e.g. learning assistance, counseling, and other resources) are listed on the Syllabus Information web page. Make sure to visit this page to review and be aware of these university policies and resources.

Course Schedule

Week Topic Readings and Recordings Deadlines


Feb. 8-Feb. 13


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

Weekly Course Lecture

Discussion 2/13


Feb. 14-Feb. 20


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

Weekly Course Lecture

Discussion 2/20


Feb. 21-Feb. 27


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

Weekly Course Lecture

Discussion 2/27


Feb. 28-Mar. 6


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

Weekly Course Lecture

Quiz 1 3/6


Mar. 7-Mar. 13


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

Weekly Course Lecture

Exercise 1 3/13


Mar. 14-Mar. 20


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 3/20


Mar. 21-Mar. 27


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

Weekly Course Lecture

SPRING BREAK 3/27 -- 3/31

Exercise 2, Mock Legal Reference Interview and Discussion 4/3


Apr. 3-Apr. 12


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

Weekly Course Lecture

Final Project Discussion 4/10

Final Project 4/12