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Researching for a Scholarly Article or Seminar (SAW) Paper: Introduction and Things to Know

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

Research Consultations

If at any time during your research you need assistance with research or finding a source, please contact a reference librarian. We are located in the Law Library on the main floor on the windowed side of the library. You can also ask for us at the Circulation Desk.

Are you a student at another school? We are sure your library's reference department would love to hear from you, so please reach out to them.

Working from Home

Working from home: Be sure to read the Access to Databases Guide carefully for information on accessing licensed database resources.

Research Plans and Logs

Introduction and the Research Process

This guide will provide a starting point for writing a law review or journal article, or a seminar paper. The resources mentioned within the guide are available to UCLA Law students through the UCLA Law Library and where possible links are provided. There are also some hints and tips scattered throughout the guide that we hope will help your writing. Before starting your research, it is important that you:

  • Plan Ahead. Thorough research cannot be completed in a weekend. It is best to start early.
  • Stay Organized. During your research you will look at many sources. It is helpful to track both searches run and results to be most efficient. 
  • Form a Succinct Research Question. This will allow you to focus your research and stay on course throughout the process. 

The research process for writing a scholarly article is a little bit different than if you are researching a legal issue like you may have done in your 1L legal writing class. There are generally steps that are followed, but with all research there is some flexibility in the process. This guide will discuss each of the following steps in turn.

  1. Selecting a Topic. Where should you look for ideas?
  2. Preemption Check.  Has someone written on the exact same topic? How can you distinguish your research question?
  3. Expanding Research. You've got the idea and you've got the research question, now you need to find all the source materials to write an original and thoughtful article.


View an Online Workshop on Researching for Your SAW Paper


Guide created by Cheryl Kelly Fischer. Currently maintained by Caitlin Hunter.