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Researching for a Scholarly Article or Seminar (SAW) Paper: Expanding Your Research

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

Research Tips

Research is a recursive process. You may find during your research or writing that a particular area needs more research and that is okay.

Organizing your research will make the process easier. Track your search language, the databases where you have searched, and organize your useful and non-useful results. How you organize is personal choice and should fit your personal style.

Feel comfortable asking for help. Faculty members and reference librarians are useful resources.

Research Plans and Logs

Expanding Your Research & Building a Foundation with Secondary Sources

What types of sources will you need? Well that depends on what you are writing about. More often than not, scholarly legal articles and SAW paper sources may include scholarly articles, treatises, news, and primary sources such as cases, statutes, and regulations, to just name a few.

Before doing any additional searching, I recommend reading your preemption materials. Background searching is meant to build your understanding of the area you will be writing in as well as your particular issue. The materials that you have gathered in your preemption searching will likely include materials that may set out the background of your topic.

Once you have read your preemption materials you have a number of methods for expanding your background research. 

  1. You can locate books, including treatises, using the UCLA Catalog.
  2. You can check for other articles that have cited back to each of the helpful articles you have read using Google Scholar, Lexis Advance, or Westlaw.
  3. You can pull the sources cited in your source. Depending on what type of source it is you may need to use the UCLA Catalog, Google Scholar, Lexis Advance, Westlaw or other databases.
  4. You may also want to modify the searches you ran in your preemption check to locate more articles in legal and non-legal article databases.
  5. You can monitor recent legal thinking by periodically reviewing legal blogs (Blawgs).  The ABA Blawg Directory offers a fairly comprehensive list of blogs by topic and region.

Primary Materials Research

Now that you have a strong foundation in your topical areas, you will want to locate primary sources specific to your topic. Primary materials include cases, statutes, regulations, and government documents such as legislative history materials and agency documents. Primary materials can be located in a number of ways.

  1. Look up citations to primary materials in the sources you have already located and read. This is the fastest and easiest way to relevant primary materials. 
  2. Visit a topical research guide. The UCLA Law Library has many topical research guides from Animal Law to State Statutes and Regulations. 
  3. Search cases and update relevant cases you may have already found. Searching cases is easiest when you already have a relevant case citation to work with, but you can run a keyword search of cases. If or once you do have a relevant case, you can update your case to find more related cases. For more information on searching case law, visit the Legal Research: An Overview research guide.
  4. Search statutes and legislative history. If you are working with a statute, you can start your research with an annotated code which will provide relevant cases, regulations, legislative history materials, and a variety of secondary sources. For more information on searching statutes, visit the Legal Research: An Overview's section on statutes. 
  5. Search regulations and agency materials. Regulations and regulatory materials, such as agency guidance, are not always easy to find, but you can do it especially with the help of the Legal Research: An Overview's section on regulations. 

Accessing Databases

The UCLA Library and the Law School offer many databases that cover a diverse array of subjects. For more on accessing databases, please visit the Access to Databases research guide

Locating Data and Statistics