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Seminar Paper Research

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

Source Authority Generally

When you perform academic research, you may find useful information in many different sources. Both legal and popular news may provide context and popular opinion that makes your paper more interesting. They should not, however, provide the legal authority upon which you base your argument.

Court opinions, statutes, and regulations, as well as legislative history can always be relied upon as evidence in your paper, but should be updated to determine whether or not you are working with current or historical legal authority. You may also wish to rely on the opinions of legal experts whose writings you find in treatises, law review or journal articles. You may find interdisciplinary authority in the scholarly publications of other disciplines ("peer reviewed" journals are the gold-standard for this kind of information). 

Accurately introducing authority by telling your reader the source of the information, its author, and its legal validity will avoid confusion. Being clear whether your narratives draw on facts from a case or details of a news article can also help your reader distinguish between the different weight they should give these stories

Before using any source in your scholarly paper, you should evaluate it for authority, accuracy, objectivity, coverage, and currency. The following boxes detail the types of questions you should resolve before using the source.



When examining authority consider things like:

¡Who is the author/publisher?

¡What is the author’s education, training and experience?

¡Is it the type of material that needs to be updated frequently?

¡If it is an organization, is the organization known and respected?

¡What is the organization’s purpose or mission?


When examining accuracy consider things like:

¡What is the source of the data and is it trustworthy?
¡Are the sources cited?  Are the sources trustworthy?
¡Can the data be corroborated or confirmed?
¡Are there obvious errors in the information?
¡Is the information factual in nature or opinion? On what are the opinions based?
¡Is the information of consistent quality?


When examining objectivity consider things like:

¡Are there political or ideological biases that need to be taken into account?
¡Who is the intended audience?


When examining coverage, consider things like:
¡Which aspects of the subject are covered and which are left out?
¡Is the level of detail provided appropriate?


When examining currency, consider things like:

¡Is the document page or webpage dated?
¡Is the information limited to certain time periods?
¡When was it last updated?
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