Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.
Use the tabs at the top of the page or the links below to navigate through this guide.
For more info...
You may want to check out the guide below for more useful information on legal research in general.
This guide provides some tips on starting a legal research paper.
Check out the "First things first..." box below for some general things to think about before starting a research paper. Scroll down the page for suggestions on a few scholarly writing guides. For more details on picking a topic and performing a preemption check, click on the "Choosing a Topic" tab. Look at the resources on the "Other Helpful Guides" tab for even more tips and tricks to starting a legal research paper.
Guide originally created by: Stephanie Huffnagle
First things first...
There are a couple of things you should think about when beginning your research process and before diving into a research topic:
- Access - What materials do you have access to in the LRC? What about through InterLibrary Loan? Some resources are easier to access than others. And remember, some materials are only available in print. If you have a general topic in mind, check with one of the reference librarians to see which types of resources we have to offer for that particular area of the law.
- Narrowing the Issue - It is better to draft a research paper that focuses on a specific legal area rather than a broad topic. An easy way to narrow your issue is to focus on a particular geographic area (country, state, etc.) or a specific group of people (women, children, etc.) within your broad topic.
- Know your interests - It is much easier to research and write a paper and it can actually be very rewarding when you pick a research topic of interest to you. Think about your passions or the types of issues that are of significance to you. If you pick a subject area that has absolutely no relevance to your life or the things that are important to you, you will definitely have a more difficult time researching and drafting your paper.
- Interdisciplinary Topics - Combining legal issues with non-legal subject areas (e.g. the law and psychology or the law and history) can make a great research topic. Remember to look outside of the typical legal resources (such as Westlaw and Lexis) to find relevant information. Consult a reference librarian for help on locating these non-legal resources.
- Ask for help! - Especially if it is your first time, writing a legal research paper can be a daunting task. Feel free to ask one of the reference librarians for assistance in getting starting, staying motivated or locating appropriate resources. We are always happy to help!
Basic Legal Writing Guides
Scholarly Writing for Law Students by
Call Number: Law Reserves-KF250 .F35 2011
Publication Date: 2017-03-24
This book fills an important niche in legal-writing literature by teaching law students how to write scholarly papers for seminars, law reviews, and law-review competitions and how to have their work recognized. It helps novices and more experienced scholars alike to write papers with a minimum of anxiety and a maximum of creativity. Employing a process theory of writing, the text first describes the enterprise of scholarly writing and then discusses techniques for brainstorming topics and theses, researching, drafting, and revising for substance and style. It covers both traditional doctrinal topics and newer areas like empirical studies. There are also chapters on footnotes, avoiding plagiarism, law review practice, and dissemination of student work through publication and submission to national writing competitions. Appendices provide a sample law-review competition paper, answers to in-text exercises, sample syllabi for scholarly writing courses, and a rubric for evaluating and editing scholarly papers and articles.
Scholarly Writing by
Call Number: Law Reserves - KF250 .C528 2010
Publication Date: 2012-08-20
Most law schools require upper-level students to write a sophisticated legal research paper on a topic of their choice. Scholarly Writing guides students through a five-step process of constructing their legal research papers, from topic selection to finishing the final product. Maintaining its example-based approach, the new edition includes additional sample excerpts to illustrate concepts throughout the text, and there is a second annotated full-length paper. Up-to-date information about legal research and organizational tools is included as are ¿bright ideas¿ for student writers, and even more cross-referencing. The text may be used as either a required text for a course in Scholarly Legal Writing or a companion guide for students working on legal writing projects independently.
Academic Legal Writing by
Call Number: Law Reserves - KF250 .V65 2010
Publication Date: 2010-04-09
Designed to help law students write and publish articles, this text provides detailed instructions for every aspect of the law school writing, research, and publication process. Topics covered include law review articles and student notes, seminar term papers, how to shift from research to writing, cite-checking others' work, publishing, and publicizing written works. With supporting documents available on http://volokh.com/writing, the book helps law students and everyone else involved in academic legal writing: professors save time and effort communicating basic points to students; law schools satisfy the American Bar Association's second- and third-year writing requirements; and law reviews receive better notes from their staff. The Fourth Edition adds examples drawn from successful student notes, coupled with detailed explanations of what makes the examples effective, and how they could have been made still more effective. It also elaborates further on how one can research a topic more comprehensively than many students do, both by finding a broader range of examples and applications, and by investigating the key cases more deeply.
Beyond the Basics by
Call Number: Law Reserves-KF250 .R38 2013
Publication Date: 2012-10-16
This how-to writing guide helps lawyers and law students master the full array of legal writing tasks and become adept and agile writers. While chapters focus on specific legal writing tasks, they also teach sophisticated writing techniques and how to use them effectively in a legal context. Chapters cover statutes, jury instructions, contracts, issues, objective and persuasive statements of fact, discussion sections and arguments, pleadings, documents for motion practice, interrogatories, correspondence (including electronic forms), opinion letters, wills and trusts, and research papers.