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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