Georgetown Law
Georgetown Law Library

Research Strategies for Seminar Papers

This guide outlines the steps required for scholarly legal writing.


Researching a seminar paper can be a very different process than researching a paper for a first year class. The Student Handbook states that the upperclass writing project should "show the student's mastery of the in-depth research undertaken and demonstrate how the student has organized, clarified, or advanced this body of knowledge in resolving the issues raised by the paper." The qualities that will make your seminar paper different from many other writing projects are:

  • Original analysis
  • Comprehensive research on the topic
  • Extensive footnotes

Here are some tips for making your research more effective and efficient:

  • Plan Ahead. For your seminar paper, you are required to do thorough, scholarly research - this cannot be done in a day or a weekend. Allow yourself enough time to find, read, and analyze your research materials before your outline, draft, and final paper are due. Also, plan ahead for interlibrary loan requests - they could be here in a few days or a few weeks. We cannot predict how long it will take to obtain materials through interlibrary loan.
  • Keep Track of Your Research. There are many ways to keep track of your research - either electronically on your laptop or PC, or in a paper notebook. However you choose to keep your research log, be sure to keep track of where you've been as you do your research. Remember, you will need to provide complete citations to all of the material you use in your paper - this will be much easier if you have a complete record of the research you've done. Use your research log to make notes about where you found useful materials and how you plan to use them in your paper. The research log is also a good place to note useful sources to go back to later as you refine your paper with additional research and analysis.
  • Stay Focused on Your Topic. One of the easiest mistakes to make as you begin your research is to find and read interesting materials that are not directly relevant to your work. If you think they may be useful later, make a note of them in your research log. Always stay focused on what you need to research at the stage you are in. You can always go back to good sources later.

If you have further questions about your research, feel free to contact the Reference Desks or make a Research Consultation appointment.

Update History

Links 06/16 (AWL)