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Researching for Journal Notes, Comments, and Paper Courses: Selecting a Topic

Topic Selection - Overview

A good place to begin the topic selection process is to identify current developments in your area of law.  Check the resources on this page, or consult these additional guides on topic selection:

BNA: Finding a Topic/Case on Which to Write (PowerPoint)

LexisNexis: Starting Your Law Review Note (Tutorial)

Westlaw: Guide to Law Review Research (pdf guide)

General Tips

Choose a topic that interests you because you will be spending a lot of time working on this. Don't bore yourself.

Pick a timely topic, but not too timely that the issue will be resolved before your paper is finsihed.

Develop an original thesis.  Remember you should be analyzing a subject, commenting on a problem or potential solution, or identifying a significant trend, not just reciting what the law is on your topic.

Current Awareness Services

Current Awareness Services are a great way to find new and noteworthy topics.  The following are some of the services available to you:

BNA's United States Law Week: Summarizes the most significant federal and state court and administrative cases every week.  Cases which split the circuits, establish new legal precedent, address new statutes or contribute to emerging legal doctrines.  Now available via Bloomberg BNA

BNA Reports and Newsletters: Provides daily or weekly summaries of the latest developments in specific practice areas.  Now available via Bloomberg BNA


Blogs are a great place to find information about developments in the law that are so new that nothing has been published yet in traditional legal publications like law reviews and journals.  Blog posts are not subject to the same editorial review process as journals, so be sure to consider their credibility.  You wouldn't want to cite blog posts in your paper, but they are extremely useful in the beginning stages of your research.

To find a blog about your area of law, check these legal blog directories:

Circuit Splits

A great strategy for selecting a topic is to look for an area of law where the courts have ruled differently on an issue.  

Seton Hall Circuit Review contains a section called “Current Circuit Splits” that summarizes recent circuit splits.

BNA's United States Law Week includes a monthly feature called Circuit Splits.

Lexis or Westlaw: You can also search in caselaw databases on Lexis or Westlaw using a search such as court or circuit /s split