In broad terms, your topic for your Federal Water Law seminar paper must involve at least some aspect of federal law. More specifically, your paper should:
Do not simply identify an issue and describe existing law or repeat what others have said about it--your own ideas, analysis & commentary are very important. Beyond the tips in the Topic Selection & Finding Issues box, below, some other sources of inspiration might include:
There are a few steps to coming up with a great topic for your paper. First, consider what your current process is for selecting a topic. The overall research process for your topic can include:
You might be investigating across several different areas of law including land use, natural resources and biodiversity, sustainability, environmental justice, environmental economics, environmental dispute resolution, and more.
Topic Selection and Finding Issues:
Narrowing: You may already have a general idea of what you would like to write about, but you need to narrow the topic down to specific subtopics you would like to discuss.
Consider what other elements narrow your scope--time period, jurisdiction, and areas of law may help you narrow your issue to something more manageable. Length of your paper and timeline are important, too. Is your issue capable of being thoroughly discussed by you in X amount of pages? Can you accomplish a thorough examination of your issue(s) before your paper is due?
Also consider depth--is there enough material for you to investigate and evaluate sub-issues? Is the issue complex enough to justify spending a lot of time on it? Also be cautious of overly technical issues--you might inadvertently spend a disproportionate amount of time on things like explaining terminology and describing processes.
Critically Assessing Issues: As topics interest you, do quick searches of primary and secondary sources to asses the topic's potential. Consider the following:
One helpful tip would be to find a topic or issue that is large enough to be important and interesting, but small enough to be manageable. Some ways you can approach or frame categories for topic selection and accompanying resources are:
To start building a research plan, begin to document the search terms you intend to use including keywords and more sophisticated search strings. You can use Google as a starting point and develop the list as you use more specialized resources and discover different terms used in your selected area of law.
Other helpful sources to get you started on a topic are current awareness tools, discussed on the next tab in this box.
Current awareness tools can help you identify new or noteworthy issues in your selected area of law. It is helpful to find and subscribe to blogs, legal newsletters and other current awareness sources to identify recent trending topics that are too new to have been substantially written about yet. For example:
Current awareness can help you identify disputed areas of law, for example, when two or more Federal Courts of Appeal rule differently on the same issue (a "circuit split"), this is a signal that the area of law is undecided and that perhaps the Supreme Court may resolve the issue in the future. One publication helpful on this point is United States Law Week which is available in print in the law library lower floor at KF 25 N48 and current through August 2018.
Scholars sometimes identify areas where the law is unsettled. To find such areas, try searching databases of law journal articles on Lexis or Westlaw. One example of a search string that may be helpful in whole or in part would be: