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Topic Selection for Law Review Comments & Notes: Getting Started

Tips for Starting the Process

Get Started .... right away.  Choose a few areas of interest and note some ideas you are interested in pursuing in these areas. Pick one of the subjects you have noted, and start to read about it right away. Keep at least one other idea in reserve, in case you need to switch topics. You may wish to research more than one topic at least preliminarily as you start.  If so, comprehensiveness is still required to ascertain if a writing topic is worthy, so plan accordingly.

 Plan Ahead....  You are required to do thorough, scholarly research - this cannot be done in a day or a weekend. Allow yourself enough time to think, find, read, and analyze your research materials before your topic & outline, draft, and final paper are due. Also, plan ahead for any interlibrary loan  requests that might be necessary. ILL materials might arrive in a few days or a few weeks. We cannot predict how long it will take to obtain materials from another institution through interlibrary loan. 

Keep Track of Your Research. There are many ways to keep track of your research - either electronically on your laptop or PC, or in a paper notebook. However you choose to keep your research log, be sure to keep track of where you've been as you do your research. Remember, you will need to provide complete citations to all of the material you use in your paper - this will be much easier if you have a complete record of the research you've done. Use your research log to make notes about where you found useful materials and how you plan to use them in your paper. The research log is also a good place to note useful sources to return to later, as you refine your paper with additional research and analysis. 

Stay Focused on Your Topic. One of the easiest mistakes to make as you begin your research is to find and read interesting materials that are not directly relevant to your work. If you think they may be useful later, make a note of them in your research log. Remain focused on what you need to research at each stage. You can always go back to good sources later.

Recommended Reading

Additional recommended reading

Heather Meeker, Stalking the Golden Topic: A Guide to Locating and Selecting Topics for Legal Research Papers, 1996 Utah L. Rev. 917 (1996).  Gives practical advice on how to identify a strong topic for academic legal writing and describes a preemption check process.

Ruthann Robson, Law Students as Legal Scholars: An Essay/Review of Scholarly Writing for Law Students and Academic Legal Writing, 7 N.Y. City L. Rev. 195 (2004).   Critiques the Volokh and Fajans/Falk texts and offers independent commentary on topic selection and the scholarly writing process.

Commercial Database Resources

Bloomberg Law, Get Going Get Writing Get Published With Bloomberg Law, describes the comment process and provides guidance for selecting a topic using resources on the Bloomberg site, including U.S. Law Week and other topical law reports. The guide includes Bloomberg Law's organizing system (Workspace), primary law databases, and how to find current court filings in Dockets.

On the Lexis home page, from the Resources tab, follow the Literature & User Guides link to find information about using Lexis to do a preemption check, and other advice about writing for publication.