Each semester, members of the library staff work with Professor Fajans to present a program to help students select, develop, and write an “A” quality paper for their seminars. This semester, the program will be held in Room 504 at 4 pm on February 5, 2009. The first half of the workshop consists of the research portion and Professor Fajans lectures on writing tips and style for the second half of the program.
In the library’s portion of the program, we always offer these tips:
1. Evaluate the time you have to devote to your paper. If you are working, carrying a heavy credit load, have parently obligations, etc., you may not want to choose a topic that will require you to visit an outside library for materials. For example, if you want to write about the economic impact of trade regulation on foreign investment, you may need access to a business library for analytical materials that focus mainly on finance. In that case, you may prefer to write a paper about a recent decision or a circuit court split. We can be quite sure that you will have access to most of your materials online if you choose this sort of paper.
2. Try to focus your topic to a defined issue. Selecting an area – even a discreet area – of law to write about is unproductive. You must select and define an issue within a legal topic. For example, you might want to write about human trafficking; however, this topic is too vague. You will need to learn a little bit more about the legal topic before you define your legal issue. In this example, you might focus on effective tactics to counter trafficking, or focus on child trafficking from a specific region.
3. Pick a topic that will interest you. You should find something in which you have a natural interest, or is of such general interest that it is regularly reported on in the trade press. It is very rewarding to be writing about current legal issues.
4. The process: You should start by picking a topic that interests you. We recommend reviewing legal periodicals and web databases that organize legal news by topic. Then, we encourage you to set up tracking services to alert you should there be a new case, new development, new law, etc… To help you define your issue, you should review books and law review articles. Commentary will really help you learn the lingo and teach you the law.
5. Most important: If you are not sure how to research your topic, make an appointment with a librarian or stop by the reference desk in the library. This is what we do.
Below I have posted links to the handouts that will be provided at the workshop. For those unable to attend, Professor Fajans and I have also placed on reserve a video recording of the workshop and copies of the handouts. You can access these materials at the libraries circulation desk.
Researching Your Paper Topic: