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Researching Legal Topics

Tips on legal research for seminar papers and law review articles for law students.

Tips for Legal Research

Advise on good practices for legal writing:  From Scholarly Writing for Law Students by Elizabeth Fajans & Mark R. Falk, 4th Edition, 2011, Call No.: Reserve Collection, KF 250 F35 2011

1.  Finding a Topic - A good place to begin is searching a secondary legal source; a legal treatise, law review article, BLAWG, or legal newsletter

2.  Narrowing a Topic - Once you have found a topic, begin to refine your research, selecting an aspect to cover in depth

3.  Developing a Thesis - Developing your claim (can be descriptive or prescriptive claim).

4.  Gathering Information

      a.  Be Thorough - Use traditional scholarly resources as well as online resources.  View surveys and data with a critical eye. 

      b.  Ask Someone - For help locating material and for an objective eye to how you are approaching your research.  Use experts to suggest resources you have not considered or to confirm your methodology.

      c. Begin with Secondary Sources - See the tab on Secondary Sources in this guide

      d. Use Internet & Online Databases Effectively

      e. Stay Current

       f.  Use Citator Services (Refworks or Zotero or another of your choosing) to organize your material & cite it correctly.

Five Things You Need to Find to Write an Article:

1.  Legal Rules

2.  Academic Literature

3.  Sample Cases or Incidents

4.  Details on Each, Especially Important Case or Incident

5.  Empirical Studies - see the tab for Statistics/Empirical Research for links to statistics on a variety of topics