Check Your P’s, Q’s, Facts, and Cites: Reading the incomparable Bedsworth today reminded me of something I see far too often with legal (and other) researchers and writers. They don’t always check the accuracy or relevance of the cites or facts they refer to in their writings. Law students on law reviews check cites and facts obsessively, but oddly enough, they didn’t always do it for their own writings for classes (though one (but not I) could argue that maybe it didn’t matter in that context, i.e. something only a professor would read). They’d blithely cite to something someone else cited to, without checking the original. (Insert a law librarian’s “oh dear,” here :-).
This isn’t wise. It may be expedient, but sooner or later you’re going to be caught, and you sure don’t want to be caught by a judge or in front of a jury. So check your cites and verify your facts. Don’t assume someone else did and don’t assume “papers of record” are accurate – they aren’t always. Try and go to the source when possible. It’s time consuming, but you have librarians in your town, don’t you? One of the things we try and do is to save you a little time.
(If you’re wondering why reading Bedsworth reminded me of this, it’s because I found myself not long ago with friends at a weekend pub lunch and caught myself saying, “did you know that people who live in cold climates are less likely to behave warlike or violently?” I then stopped and realized what total hogwash that was and that by some mysterious process of Beds-mosis, I’d absorbed his insane comedy and was pushing it out again as if his words were fact. The laugh that gave me alone was enough to make my day. So read Bedsworth. You’ll live longer than without him.)