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Developing a Topic for Research Papers: Home

Resources for choosing and developing a topic for a law school research paper.

Guide Contents

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

Subject Guide By:

Lindsay Steussy's picture
Lindsay Steussy
3320 Market St.
Philadelphia, PA 19104
(215) 571-4774