Die toeganklikheid van internetbronne in inligtingverskaffing aan regsgeleerdes
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The information needed for any law related research problem ultimately must be found in the law as expressed in the primary sources inter alia in statutes and cases. In addition secondary sources, for example textbooks, law journals, digests, indexes, dictionaries, encyclopaedias and loose-leaf publications are used to provide citations to relevant statutes and cases. In the past jurists were bound to make use of the basically chronological publication of statutes and cases and secondary resources in library holdings which were mainly in printed format. Nowadays the Internet can be used as additional source of information to find federal and state cases, statutes and regulations of countries worldwide as well as various other legal and non-legal information commonly in demand by jurists. Expert witness information, public and company information as well as trademark and copyright information are some of the resources available to the legal profession on the Internet (Adkins, 1997a:2). The question is whether jurists are aware of this additional information source and whether they are skilled in search techniques in order to efficiently and effectively retrieve relevant documents. According to Adkins (1997b:1) a problem most researchers face when using any new research tool is the "comfort factor". That is, researchers are comfortable using research tools with which they are familiar. It is very difficult to venture out of that mode, especially when computers and technology come into play. The Internet though, can be a boon in certain areas of the law and according to Bekker (1997:70) legal research is in some cases not completely done if the Internet was not used during the research. Research procedures and methodology A study of literature was done in order to determine the special skills legal researchers need when conducting legal research on the Internet. Steps in the legal research process were studied and the role of the library in the process of information retrieval, researched. Recent criteria for the rating of legal information on the Internet were identified and discussed. A qualitative study has been performed as to ascertain the state of awareness and the use of Internet resources by legal researchers. A questionnaire was used to investigate the information needs and research activities of a group of legal researchers at three South African academic institutions. The aim of the study This study is aimed at analysing the informational needs of jurists, in particular that of the academic legal researcher and to determine the information sources of law needed during the legal research process. To scout the existence of authoritative legal information on the Internet and if there is, to determine whether academic legal researchers are aware of the availability of Internet resources as additional information to be accessed and whether they dispose of the skills needed to retrieve the information. To further examine academic legal researchers' present use of the Internet and the extent to which it facilitates the research process as well as to determine whether the information retrieved from the Internet is considered of high quality and substance with regard to academic legal researchers' needs. Conclusion In conclusion the library's contribution in making Internet legal information more accessible was investigated in an attempt to answer to legal researchers' information needs. Though often described as the "information super highway", the Internet however, has a long way to go before it becomes an electronic replacement for the thousands of old cases and law review articles found in law libraries. As any sort of information can be made available via the Internet, organised knowledge could easily get damaged or lost in the vast amounts of other data (Floridi, 1996:51). Standardised methods of organising Internet resources and developing effective methods of information retrieval has become part of the task of the librarian as network navigator. In the light of the core findings it is infered that legal researchers do to a certain extent need some of the information resources the Internet potentially holds, but that various problems are experienced during information retrieval. Using the Internet requires certain skills, for example the use of search engines, Web directories and ListServ lists in retrieving relevant information and the knowledge as to evaluating the relevance, authenticity and quality of the retrieved information. Consequently this study is an endeavour to emphasise the importance of information retrieval skills in order to assure the retrieval of accurate and relevant information and to make an appeal on libraries to further the use of the Internet by developing and implementing ways to make the Internet more accessible.
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