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Scholarly Writing

This guide shows you how to find and develop a paper topic, do a preemption check, and meet your CWSL scholarly writing requirement.

Research Log

Find a way to take notes on items relevant to a possible paper topic that interests you. This could be a notepad, a word processing document, or a project on a web-based research tool like Zotero. The key is to be sure that you will be able to find any resource that you think might be useful again later when you Develop a Paper.

Once you've settled on a way to preserve your research you can begin—perhaps with some of the techniques and resources discussed in this guide.

Circuit Splits

Split authority on a legal issue can be a great place to find a topic for you paper, but as with all topics be sure to check with your professor. Some splits may be resolved before you finish your paper (either by a higher court or a legislature that changes a statute), or they may be a settled difference that a higher court is unlikely to rule on for now.

Search in Bloomberg, Lexis, or Westlaw

Use a keyword search to find judicial opinions that discuss circuit splits

(Circuit /2 split) or (split /2 authorit!)

Consider limiting your jurisdiction to federal.

Add a phrase or keyword related to your topic to the search with AND. Here is an example:
((Circuit /2 split) or (split /2 authorit!)) and “national security”



While the latest ideas are not published as quickly as in blogs, newspapers can contain articles that are more thoroughly researched. They aren't written primarily for folks working in the legal field, but they can show when current law-related news becomes a part of public discourse.

The Library provides access to the New York Times.

Westlaw & Lexis News Databases

From the home screens of either platform click the "News" link to access news databases. Note that while appearing to have very similar content Lexis tends to contain access to the full-text of many news sources further back than Westlaw.

News Faster

Legal News

Guide on News Sources

Law Blogs

See what’s being discussed right now, and (even if you decide not to create a formal research log) take notes on the stories and concepts that interest you. Blogs on legal topics can be a great way to find out about current legal issues that could lead to paper topic. Here is the SCOTUS Blog along with some directories that might assist you in finding other authoritative blogs.

Go to the Books

Strategies from the first two books were used to create this guide. Get more strategies to find and develop a paper topic from these books. Click on this link to browse all titles in the library relating to academic writing.