This is the "Choosing a Topic" page of the "Research Strategy for Academic Writing" guide.
Alternate Page for Screenreader Users
Skip to Page Navigation
Skip to Page Content

Research Strategy for Academic Writing  

Last Updated: Mar 24, 2016 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

Choosing a Topic Print Page


How does one go about choosing a topic and making sure it hasn’t already been written on?  One strategy is to look for circuit splits and other “hot topics” in legal news, and then do a preemption check to make sure your topic hasn’t already been used. 


Circuit Splits

US Law Week (Bloomberg BNA): There is a link for “Circuit Splits” under Key Features.  Circuit Splits monthly tables list cases with topic and summary of issues, and includes a link to the full case report.  You can also find circuit splits under Indexes and Recent Topics, or enter it as a search term.  Finally, using Supreme Court Today Navigator you can filter by Event Type and then by Primary Topic to see a list of pending cases granted review on a given topic.


  • United States Supreme Court Actions:  Search for “circuit split”
  • Search the Seton Hall Circuit Review


  • The National Law Journal: Search for “circuit split” or “circuit w/3 split”
  • The Supreme Court Review: Search for “circuit split”

Bloomberg BNA (including Bankruptcy Law Reporter):

  • Highlights headings may mention circuit splits, or refer to rejection or disagreement with other circuits
  • In the Bankruptcy Law Reporter, see the Supreme Court Scoreboard for bankruptcy cases before the court.  

ABI Journal (American Bankruptcy Institute): Password required (see Law Library Service Desk), or find hard copy in Periodicals on Third Floor of the MacMillan Law Library.  Includes discussion of bankruptcy circuit splits and unresolved issues in topics. 


Law Blogs

Justia BlawgSearch: Search over a thousand law blogs published by law professors, lawyers, judges, legal researchers and librarians.  Use the categories to find blog posts by topic, or search using terms.  Categories include bankruptcy and international law.

Law Professor Blogs: Designed  to assist law professors in their scholarship and teaching. Each site focuses on a particular area of law and combines both (1) regularly-updated permanent resources and links, and (2) daily news and information of interest to law professors.  Find a list of blogs by topic, or search recent posts.

ABA Blawg Directory: Topical directory of legal blogs, including bankruptcy and international law.  Within legal topics, find blawgs listed alphabetically or by popularity

SCOTUSBlog: Commentary and news on the Supreme Court of the United States.  See Upcoming Petitions and Petitions to Watch features for case summaries

How Appealing: Appellate litigation, including pending and potential Supreme Court cases

ACS American Constitution Society blog

Federalist Society blog

Good for Bankruptcy topics:

Good for International law topics:


Legal Newsletter Databases

Legal newsletters are published in online and looseleaf formats.  They report on judicial and legislative activity, as well as new cases and legislation by subject area, and often include or link to full-text.  Newsletters also track recent developments, often with authoritative commentary.  When online, there are usually daily or weekly updates which can often be set up to automatically be sent to your email.  Many online legal newsletters can be accessed in the MacMillan Law Library’s Electronic Resources – By Subject.

Bloomberg BNA:  Provides highlights of new cases and regulations.  See the Hot Topics and Recent Topics lists for topics with many recent updates.  You can search or browse the latest issue as well as an archive of past issues. The BNA Insights feature offers short articles written by practicing attorneys on recent developments.  You can also register to receive updates by email.  Bloomberg BNA Reports are also available on Bloomberg Law.  Finally, here is a list by topic of all BNA newsletters, plus U.S. Law Week.  

CCH IntelliconnectOffers newsletters on many topics via the Tracker News feature.  Tracker News allows you to keep up to date with the latest news and changes impacting a particular topic of interest. Trackers can be emailed to you every morning or they can be accessed through your RSS Reader.  You may add as many Tracker topics as you like – topics include: Federal, State and International Tax, Bankruptcy, Corporation and Business Organizations Law, and Intellectual Property.  


  • Select “Legal News” located under the All Content Type tab
  • Select a Practice Area or Topic, perform a search, then narrow by Legal News
  • Go to “Law 360” located under Top News in your My Workspace carrousel, then select a Practice Area


  • Select “Secondary Sources,” then Legal Newspapers & Newsletters
  • Select a Practice Area, then select News located under Tools & Resources

Good for Bankruptcy topics:

  • Bankruptcy Law Resource Center: See the Supreme Court Scoreboard (located under Practice Tools), Bankruptcy Law News Monitor, and BNA Insights for topic ideas
  • Bankruptcy Law Reporter: See the Hot Topics and Recent Topics sections
  • ABI World (American Bankruptcy Institute): Some sections are subscription only; ask at the service desk for password.  Incudes Bankruptcy Headlines, Newsroom, Legislative News (located under Online Resources), ABI Blog Exchange, ABI Bankruptcy Brief/Update Newsletter, and Collier Bankruptcy Case Update
  • Troubled Company Reporter (on Lexis): Provides news and updates on major companies in reorganization or in financial trouble, can also sign up for daily news clips as a free resource

Good for International law topics:


Preemption Check

You can search working papers (drafts) and articles in progress on the Legal Scholarship Network of SSRN and the bepress Legal Repository .  For newly published articles arranged by topic, see the Current Index to Legal Periodicals.  Finally, you can search law review articles in the Index to Legal Periodicals, Westlaw, Lexis, and Hein Online.


Additional Research Guides

Georgetown Law Library Guide: Research Strategies for Seminar Papers

University of Minnesota Law Library Guide: Choosing a Topic for Your Journal Article

University of Washington Law Library Guide: Writing For and Publishing in Law Reviews

American Constitution Society: ACS ResearchLink: Collects legal research topics suggested by practitioners for law student papers.  You can search or browse topics most of which are related to constitutional law and civil rights

Bloomberg BNA: Finding  a Topic/Case on Which to Write (using BNA publications)

Eugene Volokh: Academic Legal Writing: Law Review Articles, Student Notes, Seminar Papers, and Getting on Law Review (4th ed., 2010, located in Reference and 4th floor Book Stacks at KF250.V6).  See the chapter on The Initial Step for suggestions on choosing a topic.

Subject Guide

Profile Image
Vanessa King
Contact Info
Send Email

Loading  Loading...