Resources for Comment and Paper Topics

This guide is designed for students in the beginning stages of writing a paper for their Analytical Writing Requirement or for publication to an academic journal.

Beginning Steps

To first step in the writing process is to choose a topic.  This may be significantly more difficult than it sounds.  To familiarize yourself with the writing process, it may be wise to begin with these resources.

Writing for and publishing in law reviews -- A research guide written by the law librarians at the University of Washington.

Delgado, Richard.  How to Write a Law Review Article20 U.S.F. L. Rev. 445 (1986).

Fajans, Elizabeth and Falk, Mary.  Scholarly Writing for Law Students : Seminar Papers, Law Review Notes, and Law Review Competition Papers KF 250 F35  Stauffer Collection

Meeker, Heather.  Stalking the Golden Topic : A Guide to Locating and Selecting Topics for Legal Research Papers, 1996 Utah L. Rev. 917.

Volokh, Eugene.  Academic Legal Writing : Law Review Articles, Student Notes, Seminar Papers, and Getting on Law Review KF 250 V64  Stauffer Collection

Volokh, Eugene.  Writing a student article48 J. Legal Educ. 247 (1998).

Doing a subject search for "Legal Composition" will retrieve similar items.

Finding Journal Articles

In addition to searching the full-text databases for law review articles on WestLaw and Lexis, you may also want to do a search within a bibliographic database.  This will not include the full-text, but are much more comprehensive than the full-text databases.  You may search for journal articles here that you would miss otherwise.

Choosing a Topic

When choosing a topic it is helpful to determine whether your paper is presenting a new perspective on an "older" issue or is presenting the legal issues involved with a "new" issue.  If your topic pertains to a contemporary issue (such as bio-tech, high tech law) it may be helpful to look in more recent sources (such as blogs, etc.) that you would likely not consider for an older, more-established, area of law.

You may also want to look for "circuit splits" where two appellate circuits have reached differing conclusions on the same legal issue.  These "splits" are typically a key indicator whether the Supreme Court will grant certiorari to a case so as to clarify federal law.

Split Circuits -- Written by Professor Benjamin Spencer at Washington and Lee University's School of Law.  Prof. Spencer tries to keep track of split circuits and may be a good resource for a topic.

Choosing a topic for your law journal article -- An excellent research guide on how to choose a topic written by the law librarians at the University of Minnesota - School of Law.

Finding a topic on which to write -- Written by the Bureau of National Affairs (BNA), this Powerpoint presentation gives advice on how to select a topic.

Finding a topic for your comment, note, or law school paper -- Written by the law librarians at the University of San Francisco.

Topic Sources:

Blogs

Blogs may be a good resource for very-recent topics.  Blogs tend to be up-to-date but their reliability, and authority, are often uncertain.  The Heafey Law Library maintains a lengthly list of law-related blogs.  Searching in Technorati or Google's Blogsearch may be helpful.

Topical Newsletters

Newsletter may be a valuable resource to find unresolved legal issues.  Newsletters are often published frequently and are written for a specific area of law (IP news, construction, domestic relations, etc.).  Search the topical areas in either WestLaw or Lexis for newsletters.

Legal Newspapers

Legal newspapers are written for a more general audience compared to newsletters.  They are, however, typically published daily so they are often quite current.  Search for "legal news" in the topical areas of both WestLaw and Lexis.  The National Law Journal is available on both WestLaw/Lexis as are a number of other regional newspapers.  The San Jose Post Record is the local legal newspaper which is kept in print for the previous 6 months.  It is available in microfiche prior to that date.   The Recorder is another legal newspaper and is also available in print.  Additionally, San Francisco and Los Angeles both publish a legal newspaper called the Daily Journal.  The Los Angeles Daily Journal is also available in microfiche. 

General Newspapers

It may be helpful to browse through general newspapers to learn more about current legal issues.  This may be particularly true for foreign law where the local law reviews are not written in English.  Major English-language newspapers (NY Times, Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, Times of London, Guardian) are available in print, electronically, and through Lexis.  Major foreign language newspapers may be available from their respective websites:

CILP

CILP is a service from the University of Washington which indexes the law reviews they receive for the previous 90 days.  Journals will typically be indexed in CILP before they appear in the other major indexes.

Major journal indexes

The Index to Legal Periodicals and LegalTrac are the two largest indexes.  For foreign journals use the Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals.