Thursday, May 17, 2012

Summon revisited

Summon is the search box that sits near the top of the Library homepage. It has been there for a while now, so it's time to review it.
What does Summon do? It searches a range of library-subscribed sources. That includes full-text searching within (many) online books and articles. But it doesn't search everything. And it doesn't search the content of the key legal databases (think LexisNexis, Westlaw/Brookers, CCH). 
So how useful is Summon for legal research? In general, the further you move away from New Zealand content, and the further you move away from law, the better it gets.
It's useless if you are looking for primary material (legislation, case law) and/or anything you would find within the major legal publishers' sites. The exception here is HeinOnline, who allow their content to be searched by Summon, bless them. If you want serious law, start with the Law Subject Guide.
It's good for multi-disciplinary subjects - law and medicine, bioethics, tropical timber trade - anything that might be published in non-law journals and books, by mainstream publishers. Be prepared to refine your search - you can get an astounding number of hits.
And it's worth a try if you are looking for something quite specific, like commentary on a  case for which you have an accurate citation. Chances are your hits will chiefly be footnoted references, but you might find something more substantial. Use it in addition to the key databases in the Law Subject Guide.
It's also worth a try if you have a reference to a specific article. It's often quicker than searching the catalogue for the journal title, though that remains Plan B if Summon doesn't work - some journals are available only in print or in those inaccessible legal publishers' sites.
Summon. It's worth knowing about, but the best legal research starts with the Law Subject Guide. If you want any help with that, just ask.

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