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Preemption Checking

What is a Preemption Check?

The preemption check acts as background research on your paper topic. This guide provides links to some of the available resources that will aid in your preemption check. 

There are two types of preemption: preemption by law and preemption by author.

  • Preemption by law occurs when a new case, statute, or regulation will resolve your topic before your paper is published or completed.
  • Preemption by author occurs when a published paper, or one pending publication, has already addressed the exact same issue, using the exact same reasoning.

To be sure your topic hasn't been preempted, you'll need to carefully search print and electronic resources (including other disciplinary resources).

This CALI lesson and this Lexis video provide information on the preemption check process. If you need the authorization code, stop by the Reference Desk during walk-up hours or email us at


Performing a Preemption Check

Below are the basic steps in performing a preemption check. The remainder of this guide will go over these in more details.

  • Select a topic
  • Generate search terms
  • Research your topic by:
    • Searching library catalogs & electronic databases (including Google Scholar). Library catalogs usually include:
      • Databases for law and/or interdisciplinary journal articles
      • Indexed book and book chapter titles
      • Periodicals
      • Current awareness tools
      • Other helpful information.
    • Searching legal treatises and other secondary sources
    • Searching codes, statutes, regulations, and case law (primary law) for the jurisdiction relevant to your topic
    • Searching for unpublished articles and working papers
  • Subscribe to current awareness alerts to stay informed about new publications
  • Use a citation management system or other research organization tool to keep all of your work in one location

Other useful guides (note that many of these guides have links to subscription-only resources):

Topic Selection

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. 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.  It should be narrow enough to be manageable, but broad enough that you won't have trouble finding sources to inform your discussion.

Circuit Splits

Hot Topics

  • Opposing Viewpoints - Premier online resource covering today's hottest social issues, from capital punishment to immigration to marijuana. Informed, differing views help learners develop critical-thinking skills and draw their own conclusions. 
  • CQ Congress Collection - Search public policy legislation and analysis, biographical data on members of Congress since the 79th Congress (1945), their legislative voting behavior, interest groups, and their interactions in crafting public policy. 
  • PolicyFile - Policy File Index is a unique resource for U.S. public policy research in that it grants users access to timely, updated information from over 350 public policy think tanks, nongovernmental organizations, research institutes, university centers, advocacy groups, and other entities.  
  • Brookings Institute - The research agenda and recommendations of Brookings's experts are rooted in open-minded inquiry and our 300+ scholars represent diverse points of view. Research topics cover foreign policy, economics, development, governance, and metropolitan policy.

International Resources

  • Country Report - Covers nearly 200 countries and helps you keep pace with how national, regional, and global events will affect your business in the short-to-medium term. Each report examines and explains in-depth the issues shaping the countries in which you operate: the political scene, economic policy, domestic economy, sectoral trends, and foreign trade and payments.  
  • Global Patents - Updated monthly, this database features content from established patent search services, with full text of more than 29 million patents as well as citations for more than 77 million patent records from more than 100 patent authorities around the world.
  • Political Science Complete - Provides extensive coverage of global political topics with a worldwide focus. Contains full text for hundreds of journals along with indexing and abstracts for thousands of publications.
  • Trade Policy Reviews - WTO Trade Policy Review - Surveillance of national trade policies performed and published by the World Trade Organization.
  • World Politics Review (Direct)A daily, online publication and resource for foreign policy professionals and readers with a serious interest in international politics and foreign affairs.

Generate Search Terms

The following resources will help you generate search terms using terms and connectors and other operators. Creating a research log (of what search terms you used, what resources you've visited, and how you go there) helps you keep track of progress, resources, citations, and other information related to your research process.

The Research Process

The Basic Research Process:

Additional Tips: Public Policy Research

  • Always be sure you are using the most up-to-date and accurate information. If your data is outdated, the credibility of your entire argument may be jeopardized.
  • Whenever possible, use an original source. For example, if you're reading a report that quotes statistics that were collected by a government agency, find and cite the agency's data, not the report. You can never be certain that a non-original source is using the data correctly, so going to the original will avoid any potential problems of bias or inaccuracy.
  • Be aware of the reputation of your sources. Some sources, especially think tanks or advocacy groups, are known as advocates for particular viewpoints. This may cause some readers to perceive their work as biased and discount your argument because you cited them, even if the work you're citing is nonpartisan. This is another reason to always use original sources if possible. This does NOT mean you can't or shouldn't use these groups' resources if they're otherwise credible - just be mindful of the effect it may have on your paper.

Search Library Catalogs

Locate print and electronic resources in either of the following Texas A&M University catalogs by subject or topic, keyword, or author. 

Search Law Library Catalog:

Selected Electronic Resources

The following selected electronic resources will aid in your research.

Texas A&M Electronic Databases

Periodicals & Journals Databases

  • HeinOnline Law Journal Library - Contains more than 2,400 full-text journals, with most of these available through the current issue or volume and all available back to inception.
  • JSTOR - Provides access to more than 12 million academic journal articles, books, and primary sources in 75 disciplines.

Periodical Indexes

  • Google Scholar (TAMU Proxy Link) - Index to scholarly research in all disciplines. Accessing Google Scholar via this link allows authorized users to immediately access TAMU-owned materials without having to log in each time.
  • Legal Source (EBSCO) - This collection offers information centered on the discipline of law and legal topics such as criminal justice, international law, federal law, organized crime, medical law, labor and human resource law, ethics, the environment and much more.

Other Legal Research Resources

  • Law360 - Offers nonstop coverage of high-stakes litigation across 42 practices, real-time tracking, and reports on 10,000+ companies, firms and industries, and in-depth expert analysis from high-profile attorneys at top firms.
  • ProQuest Congressional - Includes full text of bills, laws, and regulations, as well as citations to or full text of congressional publications or other documents about current or pending legislation. The full text of the Federal Register is available from July 1, 1980, to the present.
  • ProQuest Legislative Insight - Contains more than 18,000 legislative histories covering laws from 1929 to the present, including 9,000 brand new histories as well as 4,000 that include new research.

Searching for the Law and Using Citators

Westlaw and Lexis are our most popular databases for searching both primary law (cases, statutes, regulations, and codes) and secondary sources (law reviews, treatises, legal encyclopedias, and other resources that provide commentary on the law). 

Use citators to update primary law citations to ensure they are still good law. Electronic legal research databases such as Westlaw and Lexis include their own citators.

Working Papers & Pre-Publication Databases

  • BePress Digital Commons Network - â€‹Digital Commons is a database of open-source scholarly works from over 300 institutions and covering many scholarly disciplines.
  • Legal Scholarship Blog - This blog features law-related calls for papers, conferences, and workshops as well as general legal scholarship resources.
  • SSRN Legal Scholarship Network - SSRN is both a repository for preprints and international journal devoted to the rapid dissemination of scholarly research.
  • NBER Working Papers - National Bureau of Economic Research working paper series


Write Your Topic

Online Resources


Zotero for Citation Management