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Georgetown Law Library

Research Strategies for Seminar Papers

This guide outlines the steps required for scholarly legal writing.

STEP 2: Preemption Check

Since you are required to present original analysis in your paper, you must determine that nobody else has already published an article with the thesis you expect to write. There may be articles on similar topics, but you want to make sure that the paper you write has not already been written by somebody else. In order to do a preemption check, you will need to search the journal literature to see what has already been written on your topic.

For an in-depth walkthrough of the preemption checking process, check out the CALI lesson on Preemption Checking. To set up your free CALI account, look for a registration code handout at the Williams Library or ask a librarian.

If you search all of the indexes and databases listed below, you will notice that there is a lot of overlap among the sources. Each, however, covers some journals that the others do not. One research bonus of this step is that you are likely to find sources that will be useful in writing your paper. Be sure to note these in your research log so that you can come back to them later.


Preemption Checks for International Topics

If your paper is on a foreign or international topic, you should also consult the following indices in addition to the ones listed above:

Preemption Checks for Interdisciplinary Topics

If your topic is interdisciplinary, you should also search non-legal indices and databases as part of your preemption check. The complete list of Georgetown Law databases includes brief subject notes that explain what each database includes. Some databases include broad scholarly coverage and are listed below as good general starting points.

  • JSTOR is a digital archive of core journals in various fields. It contains the entire runs of these journals, from the first volume up to the volumes published a few years ago.
  • Academic Search Premier provides the full text of journal articles from nearly 1,560 academic, social sciences, humanities, general science, education and multi-cultural journals.
  • ProQuest Research Library includes more than 3,700 titles -- over 2,500 in full text. It features a diversified mix of scholarly journals, trade publications, magazines, and newspapers.
  • Google Scholar includes papers, theses, books, abstracts and articles, from academic publishers, professional societies, preprint repositories, universities and other scholarly organizations. For access to full-text articles, make sure that you access Google Scholar through the Georgetown Law Library website.

Some interdisciplinary subject areas, such as economics, business, or medicine, may require searching in subject-specific databases to perform a thorough preemption check. The Georgetown main campus Lauinger Library has research guides covering a wide range of subject areas that can be helpful in determining where to search.