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Researching for Journal Notes, Comments, and Paper Courses: Home

Guide Overview

This guide is for students who are researching and writing a note for a journal or a paper for a course. Researching and writing a scholarly paper is very different from the kind of research you experienced while writing memos and briefs during your first year of law school. 

Develop a Plan

Researching and writing a journal note or paper can be overwhelming, so develop a plan to keep yourself on track. The most important thing is to plan ahead so that you are not rushing at the last minute. Allow yourself several weeks to gather and read all of your research resources before you sit down to begin the writing process. If you need to request any materials via interlibrary loan it may take a few days or weeks to get the items, so be sure to start early.

Your plan might look like this:

  1. Background reading
  2. Topic selection
  3. Preemption check
  4. Preliminary research
  5. Refine Topic
  6. In-depth research
  7. Create outline of paper
  8. Write draft of paper
  9. Follow-up research
  10. Revise, revise, revise

Stay Organized

You will be gathering and reading numerous resources that are all generally about the same broad topic or area of law. After you have read 10, 15, 20 articles about the same topic, you will inevitably forget which author said what. Keeping a research log from the very beginning of the process is the best way to avoid having to search through all of your sources multiple times when you are writing and inserting your footnotes. Your research log should also include resources that you have evaluated and chosen not to use to keep you from duplicating your efforts. If you prefer to do this digitally, consider using a service like Evernote or Microsoft OneNote (also available on OSX and iOS). OneNote is available through your UIC Microsoft 365 account, though you will lose access to the account and data when your account is deactivated after graduation.

One way to organize your research is to create a spreadsheet where you can enter citation information, a summary of the article or chapter, and your own notes on how you might use it in your paper. Another option is to use a citation management program that allows you to create and organize a database of citations related to your research. The UIC University Library provides an overview of RefWorks, EndNote, and Zotero in this helpful guide, along with instructions on accessing and using them. There are other free citation management systems available on the web such as Mendeley.

Whether you use a spreadsheet, a citation management system, or a paper notebook, you will be much more efficient if you keep track of your research.

Request a Research Appointment

Need more help? Reference librarians are available to meet with students in one-on-one sessions (or in small groups) to discuss research strategies, recommend relevant resources or review specific topics of legal research. 

Contact with the subject you're researching and when you would like to meet. A librarian will get back to you to set up an appointment. You can also schedule an appointment on the library homepage by clicking "Schedule an Online Research Appointment." We ask that you request your appointment at least 2 days in advance, but remember that you can always stop by the reference desk for immediate help with a quick research question.