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Researching for a Scholarly Article or Seminar (SAW) Paper

A guide to help you get started on your big paper.

What is a Preemption Check?

A preemption check is a search of relevant legal materials to determine if an idea has already been written on and if that article addresses the same topics, in the same manner as you would like to address them. It is very likely that you may find articles similar to the one you would like to write. You must read these articles in their entirety to determine if you can differentiate your idea and conclusions from those presented in the articles.

Why Do I Need a Preemption Check?

When seeking publication of your article, law reviews and journals will look to the originality of the work. A preemption check ensures that your article will be original work.

When Do I Not Need a Preemption Check?

If you are not planning to publish your article and not writing for law review, you don't need a preemption check unless your professor requires it. To research for your article, you'll still want to go through the same basic steps as you would for a preemption check, including search legal articles, non-legal articles, and books. However, as long as your article is your original work, it's OK if it makes similar arguments to previous articles.

What Are the Steps for a Preemption Check?

Tips for Searching

There are many ways to search! You'll want to try more than one to get the broadest range of results.

Try the following methods:

  • Keyword Searches. Take time to develop a list of keywords that encapsulate your topic. Then use one of the two methods of keyword searching:
    • Terms and connectors - AND, OR, NOT, BUT. For more details, see our workshop on Advanced Searching Techniques
    • Natural language (you know, a Google search)
  • Subject Searches. Library catalogs and indexes use specific subjects to describe books and other library materials and articles. If you have found or know of an excellent book or article on a subject, review the subjects listed in the catalog or index record and search using those subjects to find more relevant materials.  
  • Known Source Searches. If you have the name of or citation to a case or statute, use a database to search for that case or statute. Both Westlaw and Lexis provide annotations to relevant secondary materials such as journal articles for cases and statutes.