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Research Guide for Journals: Topic Selection

This guide is primarily for Villanova University School of Law students participating in a Journal.

How Do I Find a Topic?

Check those secondary sources!
If researching a Circuit Split—go through the headnotes of each case and figure out which ones are of interest.
If addressing a statutory issue, review the statute in an annotated code and look at the statute’s outline as well as the Notes of Decisions (Westlaw) & Case Notes (Lexis) for topical breakdown

Sources to Consult

  • Shepardize/Keycite to find who is citing this resource
  • Is it a hot topic? 
    • Browse legal newsletters & commentary (Westlaw Journals, Bloomberg BNA Law Reports, Mealey’s Journals on Lexis, Law360)
    • blog posts (Law Prof Blogs Network, ABA Blawg List & others listed on the Free Sites Research guide)
    • legal newspaper articles (Legal Intelligencer, National Law Journal)
  • Run a preemption check to make sure not covered elsewhere (SSRN, GoogleScholar, HeinOnline, other Law Review resources)
  • Consult with an expert! What issues are expected to be important in the next year, two, five? What are practitioners watching for?

Browse Legal News

Circuit Splits

Searches of Case Law

  • Try running a search for split or conflict /s court or circuit or authority
  • Limit by date or subject to narrow down results

Consult a Research Guide on a Subject area of Interest

If your area of interest in not in the list below, try a google search using the terms "law library research guide ______" -- filling in your subject in the blank. You may also ask for assistance at the Reference Desk.

Sources to Consult When Picking a Topic

Consult with an Expert

Talk to a law professor, your alumni advisor, or an attorney or judge you have worked with for topic ideas.

Preemption Check

Part of the topic selection process may be to determine whether any one else has already written on a particluar topic, in other words, is the topic pre-empted? This search involves multiple sources. There is more than one database to check. Westlaw and Lexis begin coverage of law reviews in the 1980s. To search for earlier articles, use HeinOnline or a legal periodical index. Furthermore, Westlaw and Lexis do not have articles that are "pending publication". The best source for new articles, before they are published, is Google Scholar, SSRN, and BePress.

Subject Guide

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Amy Spare
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