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Water Law: Topic Selection

Introduction

Introduction

To create a paper of high-quality, law students must choose a topic that creates "authentic, original, and useful discussion." (Fajans and Falk 2011). Generally, excellent research topics include:

  • Those that are first to discuss a particular topic or case;
  • Those that involve a more in-depth analysis or reach a different conclusion;
  • Those that approach a problem from a unique perspective;
  • Those that discuss some aspect of a topic or case not previously examined

For a detailed review of the scholarly writing process and resources, please see The Texas Tech Law Library's Scholarly Research Resources Guide

Topic Selection

Selecting a Topic
Choosing a topic to write about is one of the hardest parts of writing a scholarly article. Not only do you have to ensure that you select an original topic, you also must ensure that others will want to read about it. In addition to originality and relevance, you have to be interested in the topic since you will be spending the next several months research and writing about it.

A few things to consider in selecting a topic:

  • Pick a topic that will express original, useful, and timely ideas about an important subject
  • Pick a topic that interests YOU
  • What kind of law do you want to practice?
  • Talk to professors, judge, or attorneys
  • Pick a topic that is timely
  • Pick a topic that focuses on a large social and global issues
  • Consider your own experiences
  • Research recent cases and circuit splits

Sources for Selecting a Topic

Sources for Selecting a Topic

Lexis Advanced

Lexis offers some information for beginning research in a specific topic area. While not as helpful as a Primer, when just starting out, Lexis is a good place to gather ideas of different sources to refer to. Additionally, it offers Key Topics in the area and provides legal and business news headlines to help gather ideas of a current issue to write about.

 

 

 

         

 

Westlaw          

Westlaw offers some research assistance in the “Practical Law” section by Practice Area, Resource Type, and Jurisdiction. A topical Primer may be a better place to start when selecting a topic, but Westlaw offers some more in-depth topics to choose from.

                           

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Research Guides

Many law school libraries, including Texas Tech School of Law Library, offer various topical research guides that can be used to locate primary and secondary sources by topic. These resources can offer a lot of background information to begin the topic selection process.  Texas Tech's Reference Librarians are also a great resource for finding background sources on prospective topics.

Topic Selection Resources

Current Awareness Resources

  • BNA's Topical Publications (located under BNA Web Resources on the Law Library Electronic Resources page)
  • CCH's Topical Resources
  • Westlaw Topical Highlights (select Secondary Sources > Legal Newspapers & Newsletters > Westlaw Bulletins & Topical Highlights on the right-hand side under Tools & Resources)
  • Lexis' Emerging Issues Analysis (start by typing Emerging Issues Analysis into the red search bar; select "All Emerging Issues Analysis" and then enter key topical terms related to the area you want to write about)

Legal Blawgs

Both the ABA and Justia websites have blawg directories that researchers can search by subject.  Legal blawgs frequently talk about hot issues and recent decisions and can therefore be a great way to find a topic.

News Resources

Major newspapers, such as the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post are another great resource for finding current legal issues.  Online news sources, including the following, can also be helpful for finding recent issues in the law:

Circuit Split Resources

There are a few resources that focus on circuit splits.  Look at these websites to find issues that have been resolved in different ways depending on the court. 

  • Seton Hall Circuit Review (includes a section on recent circuit splits)
  • BNA United States Law Week's Circuit Splits (select United States Law Week from list of BNA Resources, then select Circuit Splits under "Key Resources")

Recent Decisions

Reading recent decisions can also be a way to come up with a paper topic.  Try searching Westlaw and Lexis Advance for recent decisions on topics of interest.

To research Supreme Court Decisions, look at:

To research Fifth Circuit cases, the Fifth Circuit's website.

To research Texas District court cases, see Justia's Texas U.S. Federal District Courts webpage.

To research Texas state cases, see the Texas Judicial Branch website.