A couple of years ago, the closed-memorandum problem I assigned as the first writing project for my fresh-faced legal research and writing students involved a legal issue that I manipulated by eliminating discussion of one of the elements of a tort in order to simplify the assignment. Each of the cases provided to the students were similarly redacted to omit discussion of the same element. The students were given the standard instruction that they were not permitted to consult or cite to any outside sources. When I began reading their papers, I noticed that a majority of the students had essentially modified their legal analysis to include, as a part of the rule synthesis section of their discussion, rules related to this missing element. These additional rules were never applied to the facts; they were merely mentioned at the outset of the legal analysis. ...
Part II of this Article presents a brief summary of the available research on those students who have used computers throughout their entire educational careers, including their strengths, their weaknesses, and how they differ from their instructors-many of whom did not use computers to any significant degree for research during college and law school. Part III of this Article asserts that these differences are cultural and argues that, in the interest of better educating and preparing our students to become lifelong learners who are equipped to self-assess their research, law school teachers must adjust their teaching styles to not only teach to these students' strengths and enlighten them about their weaknesses, but to also teach in a manner that reflects the way the students think and learn.
Because students are always plugged into technology and are always searching the internet, Part IV of this Article advocates the incorporation of research throughout the entire semester as a fluid, ever-present component to teaching all other skills and concepts. Several examples are presented, including a closed-memorandum problem illustrating its dual function as a vehicle for introducing a deductive, analytical paradigm for written analysis and its use as a guide to, and self-assessment of, research. A second example involves a statute that can be used to introduce statutory analysis and interpretation as well as the close reading skills necessary to conduct an informed and complete research process.
"Mind the Gap: Teaching Research as a Fluid, Ever-Present Concept in the First-Year Legal Research and Writing Classroom,"
Mercer Law Review: Vol. 66:
3, Article 4.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.law.mercer.edu/jour_mlr/vol66/iss3/4