Research Strategies for Seminar Papers

This guide provides a basic outline for researching a seminar paper.


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Update History

Updated 12/2022 (ROJ)
Updated 7/2023 (ROJ)
Links 4/2024 (ROJ)

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Research is a Fundamental Component of the Seminar Paper

Per the Georgetown Law Student Handbook:

"The upperclass legal writing requirement builds upon the first year Legal Practice course by developing students ability to independently engage in a sustained, in-depth research [emphasis added] and writing project for a legal audience. Working on the paper challenges students to hone their research skills, engage in complex legal analysis, develop and test a thesis or argument, gain mastery over a specific topic, and enhance the clarity and precision of their writing all components of the art of legal writing that are valued in practice regardless of the particular field that the student might pursue."

The seminar paper will require you to find a large amount of information and use many unfamiliar resources. You will also conduct an original analysis using the information you've found and cite everything you've used with extensive footnotes.

Tips For Making your Research Effective and Efficient

Efficiency is a crucial aspect of successful research for a seminar paper. As you research, it is easy to become distracted by off-topic or tangential materials. To maintain efficiency and stay on task, note potentially useful materials in your research log and, when available, download the PDF.

A seminar paper requires comprehensive, time-consuming research and cannot be completed in a couple of days or over a weekend. Additional research is often needed after discovering weaknesses while outlining and drafting the paper. Effective researchers budget sufficient time to ensure access to materials using interlibrary loan or consortium loan since receiving physical items through these services can take a few days, a week, or more. 

Active organization of research materials and tracking research tasks creates an efficient research process. This can be achieved through multiple technques:

  • Use a research log. Effective research logs must contain the following information to be helpful: a brief description of the material, a complete citation or a stable URL, and a brief note on its usefulness. Creating a log using Excel, Google Sheets, or Apple Numbers has the added benefits of using ctrl+F/cmd+F to quickly find items in the log by keyword and sorting options. 

  • Use the internal tools of the databases. Identify the tools within databases that assist with saving your research and use them. Look for folders, copy text with citation, and links. These tools are often at the top of the page in a website, or along the right or left side of the page. 

  • Save or capture the citation information for everything you use. Since your paper requires complete and comprehensive citations, you must keep a record of everything you read. A research log is an easy and efficient method of tracking all materials you've read or consulted. An effective research log must include sufficient citation information to help you find an item again: the authors' name, title, publisher, published date, volume number, page numbers, and, when applicable, database information or a stable URL.

We're Here to Help!

The Law Library reference librarians aim to ensure your research is efficient, effective, and complete.

We offer a one-on-one research consultation service during which we review the resources for your specific topic and/or information need. These consultations are by appointment only and require some lead time for the librarian to prepare for your topic.

The Reference Desk is a great place to start for quick questions or questions about library services and resources! Please see our Reference Desk hours to determine when a reference librarian is on duty. You can also reach us by chat or email.

Additional Resource

Requirements and Criteria - Seminar Papers 

Your professor will give you details on the requirements for your paper. The general requirements for the upperclass Legal Writing Requirement are published in the Student Handbook of Academic Policies by the Registrar's Office.

Publishing Your Seminar Paper

You may want to consider submitting your seminar paper for publication. See the Law Library's guide on publishing articles in law reviews and journals for information on the process and resources.