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Substantial Paper Guide: INTRODUCTION

ABOUT THIS GUIDE

This guide is for law students who are writing a substantial paper as part of their College of Law graduation requirement. It is designed to provide guidance on selecting a topic, conducting a preemption check, organizing your research using citation managers, developing a research plan, writing your paper, and citing your sources in Bluebook citation.

The College of Law requirements for a substantial paper may be found on the law college intranet under College of Law Bylaws, Section 2-109 Rules Governing Satisfaction of Substantial Paper Requirement, pp. 38-41. (Requires UA NetID and password to access.)

WHAT MAKES A GOOD PAPER TOPIC?

As you are searching for a topic for your substantial paper, ask yourself the following:  

  • Is the topic one that is well supported? Do you find legal and scholarly texts that will substantiate your claim?
  • Can you develop a novel or original contribution to your topic? Can you pose a question that has not yet been answered or answered in a similar way?
  • Is the topic noteworthy? Does it add something to the body of legal knowledge or benefit the legal community? What is the significance of your topic?

ARTICLES ON SELECTING A PAPER TOPIC

For further details, you might wish to consult the following articles on finding a topic and developing it into one that is compelling and interesting.

GENERAL PAPER APPROACHES

Common approaches to identifying a problem for writing a substantial paper include:  

  • Identifying an unresolved area of law, evaluating conflicting laws of authority, and arguing for a better rule.
    • Look at jurisdictional conflicts
      • Split authorities or circuit splits
      • Majority view / minority view
      • Conflicts of law
      • Unresolved issues
  • Looking at new facts, old laws OR old facts, new laws.
    • Apply existing law to new facts
    • Apply new law to existing facts
    • Take an issue of first impression in one district/circuit and apply it to the law of a different district/circuit
  • Analyzing one important case in depth and describing how it affects the current body of law.

AUTHOR & UPDATE INFORMATION

This guide was created by Law Library Fellows Sarah Slinger and Nicholas Mignanelli and Law Librarians Sarah Gotschall and Cynthia Condit.

Last updated November 25, 2019