Skip to Main Content

Seminar Paper Research

This guide is intended to direct researchers to resources on scholarly legal writing, including both legal and interdisciplinary resources.

Preemption Checking

Once you have a topic idea, you need to make sure it is unique. Survey the literature to make sure that your article is not too similar to an article that was already published, or one that is forthcoming. Ideally, you should complete the preemption check before you do too much research on the topic. If you find that there has already been a lot of scholarship on your topic, make sure your thesis is original enough that it adds to the body of knowledge. If you are uncertain whether your topic is distinct enough, check with your seminar professor.

What is Preemption Checking?

Make sure your paper:

  • Hasn’t been previously written
  • Has not been made obsolete
    • Does not mean: your topic has to be totally obscure
    • Does mean: you need an angle


  • Search the relevant literature
  • Keep track as you go – this turns into your research log!
  • Monitor the situation
  • Make sure it’s not preempted over the course of the semester

Literature Review

Existing Scholarship

Cross-Discipline & Dissertations

Pending Scholarship

More on Preemption Checking


Use an alert to monitor changes to issues related to your topic. You can set up an alert in any of the following:

Research Log

Keep track of where you’ve been and what you found.  As you research, keep a log of:
  • Resources consulted
  • What help the resource(s) provide (or didn’t)
  • Search terms used
  • Date accessed
  • Citations to the resource(s)
  • Relevant citations obtained from the resource
  • Updates (make sure you know whether the law is still valid)

 Your log can be as simple as a Table like this oneOr you could use a research tool like Zotero

Follow William A. Wise Law Library on:   Facebook     Twitter     YouTube     RSS