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Finding a Topic for Your Law School Paper or Law Review Comment/Note

Techniques and sources for identifying new or unsettled issues that could be the basis for a good law school paper or law review comment or note.

Introduction

Use the sites and techniques on this page to discover significant and unresolved legal issues.

Delve Into Books for Novel Issues

Skimming recent publications of different types can often bring unresolved issues to light.

Scholarly Books

Search Ignacio by subject or key word to look for books in broad areas of law (e.g. Criminal, Bankruptcy, Privacy) or that interest you. Limit or modify your search by "Location" to "Law Stacks." Also limit or modify by "Year" to limit results to more recent books.

Case Books

Look at the discussions and notes before and after the cases for indications of unresolved issues.

Latest ALR Annotations

Recent ALR annotations tend to reflect topics of current interest where there has been enough case law to form the basis for an annotation. For some of these topics, there may be different or even conflicting approaches to the issues in question.

Law Review Searches for Unresolved Issues - Westlaw

Here are some sample Westlaw law review searches for finding novel or unresolved issues.

These searches retrieve lots of documents, even with a date restriction limiting results to the last few months. Consider adding topical search terms — even broad ones such as "discrim!"

adv: "beyond the scope" /s note or article or comment and date(after 5/2015)
adv: "beyond the scope" /s note or article or comment and discrim! and date(after 5/2015)

Law Review Searches for Unresolved Issues - Lexis

Here are some sample Lexis law review searches for finding novel or unresolved issues.

Run the search, and then filter your results. Filter first to "Secondary Materials," and then to "Law Reviews and Journals." Use the "Timeline" to restrict your results to just the most recent couple of years.

These searches retrieve lots of documents, even with a date restriction limiting results to the last few months. Consider adding topical search terms — even broad ones such as "discrim!"

"beyond the scope" w/s note or article or comment
"beyond the scope" w/s note or article or comment and discrim!

Case Law Searches for Unresolved Issues - Westlaw

Here are some sample Westlaw case law searches for finding novel or unresolved issues. (See the Circuit Splits section of this guide for finding circuit splits and similar jurisdictional conflicts.)

These searches retrieve lots of documents, even with a date restriction limiting results to the last few months. Consider adding topical search terms — even broad ones such as "discrim!"

adv: issue or question or matter /s "first impression" or novel and date(after 5/2016)
adv: issue or question or matter /s "first impression" or novel and discrim! and date(after 5/2016)

Case Law Searches for Unresolved Issues - Lexis

Here are some sample Lexis case law searches for finding novel or unresolved issues. (See the Circuit Splits section of this guide for finding circuit splits and similar jurisdictional conflicts.)

Run the search first. Filter first to "Cases." Then, narrow by "Jurisdiction" to California (or another state), or to "U.S. Federal." Use the "Timeline" to restrict your results to the most recent year or so.

These searches retrieve lots of documents, even with a date restriction limiting results to the last few months. Consider adding topical search terms — even broad ones such as "discrim!"

adv: issue or question or matter w/s "first impression" or novel
adv: issue or question or matter w/s "first impression" or novel and discrim!
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