Before you begin writing your Note or Comment, you should run a thorough preemption check to ensure you are presenting an original, novel claim. A preemption check requires reviewing relevant literature to determine whether anyone else has already written an article on the same topic with the same thesis and arguments. You do not want to spend a significant amount of time writing a Note or Comment that is nearly identical to previously published legal scholarship, so running a preemption check now will prevent you from having to come up with a different topic late in the process or duplicating anyone else's work.
Conducting a comprehensive preemption check also will alert you to relevant sources for your research and will provide you with better insight into how you want to frame your arguments. By the time you complete the preemption check, a significant amount of your research for your Note or Comment will be done!
To conduct a preemption check, you should check for other scholarship on your topic in each of the databases or resources listed below. Identify the most similar articles to what you plan to write and ask yourself how your Note or Comment will present a novel claim or argument. If you find articles with similar theses or that make similar arguments to what you planned on writing in your Note or Comment, do not panic. Reflect on how it can enrich your treatment of the subject and determine what your piece can add to the debate.
Conducting a thorough preemption check on your topic will identify great starting points of materials that you will want to review and read as part of your research for your Note or Comment. It is crucial for you to conduct a preemption check before you begin writing, but also throughout the research and drafting process.
American Law Reports contain annotations (in-depth articles) on specific legal issues, particularly where the law is unsettled or in development. Each annotation contains background information and analysis of the legal issue and offers citations to relevant cases, statutes, and law review articles. American Law Reports are available online through both Westlaw and Lexis —you only need to search for ALRs through one of these databases.
How to Use:
On Lexis: Select "Secondary Materials" on the homepage, then select "American Law Reports (ALR)."
On Westlaw: Select "Secondary Sources" on the homepage, then select "American Law Reports" and apply filters.
Many law schools and academic institutions have institutional repositories through Digital Commons, which is powered by bepress.
How to Use: Search the Digital Commons Network by conducting keyword searches in the search bar on the homepage.
HeinOnline's Law Journal Library contains full-text, PDF copies of over 3,000 law and law-related periodicals dating back to the first issue for each periodical.
How to Use: On HeinOnline's homepage, select the "Law Journal Library." Click on "Advanced Search" underneath the search bar at the top of the screen, then limit your search to Articles, Comments, and Notes.
The Index to Legal Periodicals & Books indexes 1,100 legal journals, law reviews, yearbooks, institutes, statutes, bar association publications, and university publications, including more than 320 law reviews with coverage beginning with 1981.
How to Use: Click on "Advanced Search." Recommended search fields include TX All Text Fields, AB Abstract, and SU Subject. You can also click on "Thesaurus," at the very top of the page, to browse and search within the subject terms used by the index, then search for material with those subjects.
Check both Lexis's (1) Law Reviews & Journals and (2) Legal News to find published articles and to discover recent developments related to your topic.
How to Use:
(1) Law Reviews & Journals: On the homepage, click on "Secondary Materials," then select "Law Reviews & Journals."
(2) Legal News: On the homepage, click on "Legal News."
SSRN contains a Legal Scholarship Network where authors post working papers, papers that have been accepted for publication, and final, published versions of articles. SSRN is a good resource for discovering popular articles pertaining to particular topics because it allows users to view the number of times an article's abstract has been viewed as well as the number of times a paper has been downloaded. Because many authors post papers that have been accepted for publication, it is a helpful resource for seeing what will be published in law journals in the upcoming months.
How to Use: From the homepage, use the general search bar to run keyword searches or click on "Advanced Search."
Check both Westlaw's (1) Law Reviews & Journals and (2) Legal Resource Index. The Legal Resources Index (electronic companion to Current Law Index) contains abstracts from journals with coverage beginning with 1980.
How to Use:
(1) Law Reviews & Journals: On Westaw's homepage, select "Secondary Sources," then select "Law Reviews & Journals" and apply filters.
(2) Legal Resource Index: On Westlaw's homepage, select "Secondary Sources," then select "Legal Resource Index" in the right sidebar under "Tools & Resources."
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