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Researching Your Seminar Paper

Types of Topics

There are many types of topics from which to choose. Choose an issue that interests you, as it will make researching and writing that much easier. Pay attention to your reading materials, research, and class lectures for unresolved issues and open questions. Also, keep in mind that the thesis or argument should be original; see the library's preemption checking guide for more about confirming the originality of your argument.

Tips on choosing a topic:

  • Two common topic types are Hot Topics (topics not previously written about) and Circuit Splits (issues where two or more Federal Courts of Appeal rule differently; these splits may end up being resolved by the United States Supreme Court).
  • If you don't already have a specific topic in mind, get started by doing basic background research and finding general information on the field or subject as a whole. Introductory textbooks or treatises are a good way to acquire background knowledge.
  • Familiarizing yourself with the current body of knowledge in your subject will help you identify smaller subareas and topics of interest; gradually, a narrower focus should emerge.
  • After you've done your introductory background research, you can use the resources given in the rest of this guide to help you narrow your topic. Your goal is to evaluate the background information you found and focus in on a well-defined subject within the scope of your overall topic. It should be narrow enough to be manageable, but broad enough that you won't have trouble finding sources to inform your discussion.

Finding Hot Topics

Databases with a key icon (key icon) in front of them are provided by the Law Library or the Texas A&M Libraries. A NetID and password may be required for access.

Legal & Policy News Sources

News Aggregators

Current Awareness Tools

  • Lexis, Westlaw, and BNA all let you create email alerts on a topic or word
  • Subscribe to RSS feeds on blogs
  • Google Alerts

Recent Legal Conferences

Finding Circuit Splits

U.S. Law Week (BloombergBNA) has an entire section devoted to Circuit Splits

  • Arranged by month
  • Quick way to see the most recent circuit splits
  • Available on BloombergLaw

Seton Hall Circuit Review

  • This journal is devoted to articles dealing with circuit court cases
  • Each issue compiles "Current Circuit Splits"