Georgetown Law
Georgetown Law Library

Research Strategies for Seminar Papers

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


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Update History

Updated 7/2020 (ROJ)
Updated 12/2022 (ROJ)
Updated 7/2023 (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 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."

This paper requires students "to engage in deep and sustained research into a wide range of materials." [emphasis added]

The seminar paper will require you to find a large amount of information and use many types of resources with which you are unfamiliar, as well as conduct original analysis using the information you've found, and cite to everything you've used with extensive footnotes.

Tips For Making your Research Effective and Efficient

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.

For your seminar paper, you are required to do thorough, scholarly research. This cannot be done well in a day or a weekend. Allow yourself enough time to find, read, and analyze your research materials before you outline your paper. The drafts will allow you to identify weaknesses in the paper - you might need to do additional research to addresses these gaps. Also, you must allow time for items that we do not have access to at the Library to arrive via interlibrary loan or consortium loan. Obtaining physical items via interlibrary loan can take a few days or a week or more. 

Because of the extensive nature of the research needed for the seminar paper, you must keep track of your research. There are multiple ways to do this:

  • Use a research log. Research logs can take many forms - the best research log is one that you will actually use. The log itself can be created in any format and organized in any way, as long as it is able to store information on your research: what you found, where you found it, and how you will use it. Creating a log using Excel, Google Sheets, or Apple Numbers has the added benefit of using ctrl+F/cmd+F to quickly find items in the log by keywords. 
  • 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 capturing the link, etc. 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 have a record of everything you read. You do not want to waste time searching for the information of something in order to complete a citation. Make a note of everything you read in a research log, or some other organized document or folder, and include the information that is generally required in a citation: authors' name, title, publisher, published date, volume number, page numbers, and URL, if applicable. This information might not be sufficient to format a citation completely, but it will make it much easier to find the item again much more efficiently, should you need it.

We're Here to Help!

Reference librarians are here to help you with all aspects of your research - our goals is to make sure your research is efficient, effective, and complete.

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

For quick questions, or questions about library services and resources, the Reference Desk is a great place to start! Please see our Reference Desk hours to find out 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.