If you are one of the many students who are writing a law note or seminar paper this semester, you may feel a bit overwhelmed at the moment. Several questions maybe running through your head such as: how do I identify a “good” topic; where do I begin researching; when should I stop researching; how do I organize my paper. Well, there is no need to fear. On September 13, 2012, Professor Elizabeth Fajans and Librarian Kathy Darvil will host a workshop on researching and writing your seminar paper. The workshop will be held from 4 pm-6 pm in Room 501.
Listed below are several resources available from the BLS library that can help you research and write your law note or seminar paper.
General Resources for Legal Research and Writing
• ELIZABETH FAJANS & MARY FALK, SCHOLARLY WRITING FOR LAW STUDENTS: SEMINAR PAPERS, LAW REVIEW NOTES AND LAW REVIEW COMPETITION PAPERS (4th ed. 2011).
• EUGENE VOLOKH, ACADEMIC LEGAL WRITING: LAW REVIEW ARTICLES, STUDENT NOTES, SEMINAR PAPERS, AND GETTING ON LAW REVIEW (4th ed. 2010).
• JEAN DAVIS, PAPER TOPIC DEVELOPMENT: INTERNATIONAL AND COMPARATIVE: A RESEARCH GUIDE (2012), http://guides.brooklaw.edu/developing
• JEAN DAVIS, PAPER TOPIC SELECTION: INTERNATIONAL AND COMPARATIVE: A RESEARCH GUIDE (2012), http://guides.brooklaw.edu/selecting
• KATHLEEN DARVIL, SELECTING AND DEVELOPING YOUR SEMINAR PAPER TOPIC: A RESEARCH GUIDE (2012), http://guides.brooklaw.edu/seminarpaper
Legal Writing: Style & Grammer
• BRYAN A. GARNER, LEGAL WRITING IN PLAIN ENGLISH: A TEXT WITH EXERCISES (2001).
• BRYAN A. GARNER, THE ELEMENTS OF LEGAL STYLE (2nd ed. 2002).
The Supreme Court is winding down and this past week issued two eagerly awaited decisions, one of which dealt with immigration.
Arizona v. U.S. did not involve the issue of racial bias, though many civil rights groups have challenged it as such. Rather, the issue before the Supreme Court had to do with whether the Arizona law usurped the federal government’s authority to regulate immigration laws and enforcement.
If you are interested in finding out more information about immigration issues, our library has several books on this topic. I have highlighted a few of the more recent ones below.
American Immigration: A Very Short Introduction – A fascinating and even-handed historical account, this book puts into perspective the longer history of calls for stronger immigration laws and the on-going debates over the place of immigrants in American society. Oxford University Press
Immigration : A Documentary and Reference Guide – Presents a history of US immigration, tracing the roots of the debate in the history of our profoundly divided and surprisingly cyclical response to foreign immigration.
In a New land : A Comparative View of Immigration – Drawing on the rich history of American immigrants and statistical and ethnographic data, In a New Land compares today’s new immigrants with the past influxes of Europeans to the United States and across cities and regions within the United States.
Students taking the International Information Sources course at Pratt Institute, School of Information and Library Science created the following three tutorials for learning how to use the these United Nations materials:
Recently, the Brooklyn Law School Library added CQ Almanac to its CQ Press Electronic Library subscription. For those of you who are unfamiliar with CQ Press, originally known as Congressional Quarterly Press, it is a highly regarded publisher of Capitol Hill news, congressional member profiles, legislative tracking services, specialty publications, congressional transcripts and much more. The CQ Almanac, originally published in 1946, publishes the legislative history of every major piece of legislation that Congress considers during a session. The histories are arranged thematically and are cross indexed for reference.
The electronic version combines sixty years of congressional reporting into one source making researching a piece of legislation or a policy matter much more efficient than before. You can research an issue by browsing by subject, by browsing by congressional session, or by performing a key word search. One of the great new features of CQ Almanac online edition is its Policy Tracker. The Policy Tracker allows you to explore a specific policy to see how it has evolved over the years. For example, if you are researching animal rights, you can click on the Policy Tracker link and then browse the topics alphabetically, eventually finding the topic “Animal Rights and Animal Research.” Under the selected topic, you will see a list of the all the major pieces of animal rights legislation passed, since the inception of the CQ Almanac, which is 1946. You can explore each piece of legislation individually and see how animal rights have evolved over the past sixty years.
To access the online version of the CQ Almanac, go to the Brooklyn Law School Library’s Electronic Resources page and click on the link for the CQ Press Electronic Library. When you arrive at the CQ Press Electronic Library page, click on the link to the CQ Almanac. If you are accessing this site from off campus, you will need to implement the proxy instructions on your home computer or lap top.
Explore the range of web guides now available at http://guides.brooklaw.edu!
My colleagues in the library have created research guides such as:
These guides describe, and link to, sources ranging from online treatises to RSS feeds.
In conjunction with Maria Okonska, I recently published two guides to help BLS students identify and develop international law-related paper topics:
In these guides, we discuss new tools, including Law.com International News, Oxford Reports on International Law (subscription database), and subject-oriented RSS feeds that describe BLS Library’s recent acquisitions. We also highlight highly useful publications of BLS faculty, such as: Scholarly Writing for Law Students: Seminar Papers, Law Review Notes, and Law Review Competition Papers (Elizabeth Fajans and Mollie Falk); the Information, Law, and the Law of Information blog (Derek Bambauer et al.); and the Interactive Outline of the Law of War (Judge Evan Wallach).
We hope that you will use our guides and will provide authors with comments. When Brooklyn Law School unveils its portal in Fall 2009, there will be links to these web guides on the BLS Library’s portal page.
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 605 at 4 pm on September 18, 2008. 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
Research Slide Show: