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Substantial Paper/Journal Note Guide: Introduction

About This Guide

This guide is for law students who are writing a substantial paper or journal note 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 the substantial paper requirements can be found in I(C)(3) of the Arizona Law Student Handbook (available on the student intranet). 

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 and 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 08.10.2021.