Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Online Index to American Doctoral Dissertations, 1933-1955

In honor of Open Access Week, the Goodson Blogson is highlighting another free research resource. Last week, we brought you the news that HeinOnline and the Law Library of Congress had teamed up to provide free public access to historical federal legal materials like the U.S. Code and U.S. Supreme Court cases. Today, we're featuring a new free resource for historical doctoral dissertations.

Earlier this month, EBSCO announced the release of American Doctoral Dissertations 1933-1955, a free digitized index of nearly 100,000 doctoral dissertations which were accepted by American universities during those three decades. The database, available at, includes scans of a print index set, Doctoral Dissertations Accepted by American Universities, which is also available in the Duke University Libraries' off-site storage facility.

Searching this free database does not include the same features as other EBSCO-produced subscription databases, but expert field codes are available to perform more advanced searching. For example, to retrieve a list of dissertations from Duke University on the subject of law, use the Advanced Search AF(duke) and KW(law). To limit your search keywords to only the title of the document, try an Advanced Search like TI("supreme court"). Results include a scan of the printed index's relevant page, rather than the full text of the dissertation. However, the increased accessibility of this index should help researchers uncover useful citations from this time period for retrieval.

The full text of many dissertations can be found online via ProQuest Dissertations & Theses. This subscription database, available to the Duke University community and to on-site visitors, offers full-text PDFs for selected dissertations as well as indexing back to the 1860s. ProQuest also offers free access to the full text of open-access dissertations in its collection, via PQDT Open.

Dissertations not available in full-text via these ProQuest databases will likely require an interlibrary loan request. The text would have to be supplied from either the degree-granting institution or from a library which owns a microfilmed copy. For help with locating the full text of a dissertation, be sure to Ask a Librarian.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Free Access to Federal Law

The Law Library of Congress has just announced an agreement with legal publisher William S. Hein which provides free public access to historical federal publications, including the United States Code, U.S. Reports, Code of Federal Regulations, and the Federal Register. While neither as complete nor searchable as the HeinOnline subscription libraries which are available to current Duke University community members, these collections linked within the Law Library of Congress's Guide to Law Online help fill in the historical gaps for these important legislative, judicial, and executive branch publications, which have long been available back to the mid-1990s on the federal government website FDsys. Generally, the free Hein libraries begin with the first edition of the publication in question, and end when free access via FDsys begins.

The free collections have been added to the Goodson Law Library's handy list of Federal Law Links, and will be added to subject-specific library research guides as they are updated. The links can also be accessed through the Law Library of Congress's Guide to Law Online web portal. Users may browse to specific volumes or issues, and can download up to 20 pages at a time. (In the subscription-based version of HeinOnline, the download limit is 200 pages at once; a search function is also available.)

Hein describes the free collections as "a donation to the Library and to the American public." Researchers everywhere will undoubtedly benefit from this increased access to historical federal law publications. For assistance with using the Guide to Law Online links or the Duke University version of HeinOnline, be sure to Ask a Librarian.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Pattern Jury Instructions, Online and Off

Effective on October 6, North Carolina Bar Association members can no longer access the state's Pattern Jury Instructions (PJI) online through the Fastcase research service. Private vendor CX Corp is now the exclusive online source for North Carolina Pattern Jury Instructions, and is offering direct individual subscriptions after 11 years of providing access through the state bar association's member research service.

Goodson Law Library users can continue to find print copies of the North Carolina Pattern Jury Instructions, compiled and updated by the state's Conference of Superior Court Judges and published by the UNC School of Government, in the Walker North Carolina Alcove on Level 2. There are separate volumes for civil, criminal, and motor vehicle instructions. The library's research guide to North Carolina Practice includes information about these PJI publications as well as other state legal research tools.

What's all the fuss about Pattern Jury Instructions? PJI, sometimes also called "model jury instructions" or "standard jury instructions," provide sample language that judges may read to juries before trial deliberations. The instructions generally outline the necessary elements, burdens or proof, and other jury considerations in clear and plain language. PJI publications frequently also include citations to case law and other authority within the jurisdiction. For both of these reasons, they are valuable legal research tools.

PJI from other states are often available in full-text online in Westlaw, LexisNexis, or free through court websites. To locate all jury instruction publications on WestlawNext, follow the path Secondary Sources > Jury Instructions. On Lexis Advance, choose Browse > Sources > By Category > Jury Instructions to see available titles. Available jury instruction publications can also be accessed through the source menu for a specific state.

For help locating or using PJI publications, be sure to Ask a Librarian.