Taylor: Building a Legal Research Ontology

Amy Taylor, JD, MLIS, of American University, has posted Building a Legal Research Ontology, at VoxPopuLII.

Here are excerpts from the post:

[…] I further narrowed the focus of the ontology to what we teach 1Ls in basic legal research. We teach them how to research with primary and secondary sources (Type of Research Materials) in the broad categories of law they learn in their IL classes (Area of Law). We teach them about the types of law they will encounter (Type of Law). I also wondered if I could find a way to incorporate all the topics we teach them implicitly. […] They will need to produce something tangible for a partner or a senior associate or a judge (Final Product). […] Not only is something tangible expected from them, but they will also need to keep in mind that their work stems from some type of legal action (Legal Action). […]

Based on this focus, I had five classes: Type of Research Materials; Area of Law; Type of Law; Final Product; and Legal Action. I was fortunate enough to be able to participate in the Sixth Conference on Legal Information: Scholarship and Teaching (known as “The Boulder Conference”) with a working paper on the ontology. Drawing from his work on legal research instruction, Paul Callister suggested I add another class, Type of Research Problem. […]

My next task was coming up with the terms for the ontology […]

Selecting the ontology language was the easiest part of the endeavor. I learned about the Ontology Web Language (OWL) at the LII conference. […]

I also needed a program to build the ontology using the W3C standards and naming conventions. Protege is a free and open-source software program developed and distributed by Stanford University. It comes with extensive user guides. It allows for the creation, sharing and publishing of ontologies, and it uses OWL. […]

At this point, […] the ontology’s classes now have subclasses. I am building the relationships between the classes and subclasses, and using Protege to bring them all together. I am also prototyping lesson plans that can take advantage of the ontology. For example, if you write a problem for your students that requires them to research strict tort liability for failure to warn of the danger in the use of a product, you can also use the ontology to bring in the Restatement Third of Torts: Products Liability, as well as secondary sources such as treatises. You can also tie this into whatever final product you want your students to produce: a client letter; a memo to the firm; results of research into punitive damages awards, etc. As long as you have the ontology classes set up, you can add anything to them in order to personalize your research problem.

I also hope to host the ontology on a website with a section for instructors to share lesson plans and ontology files. The files from Protege use an .owl extension, so they can be shared as easily as a pdf. […]

Click here for video and slides of Amy Taylor’s presentation on this topic at CALICon 2013.

For more details, please see the complete post.

HT @LIICornell

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