Scholarly Research and Writing Resources for UNM Law Students: Home

A collection of resources and pointers for writing your scholarly papers.

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A collection of resources and pointers for writing your scholarly paper.

In this guide:

  1. Selecting a Topic
  2. Topic Selection Resources
  3. Preemption Check
  4. Thesis Statement
  5. Style & Citation
Take a look at the books below! Helpful titles in the UNM Law Library's collection.

Resources for Academic Student Writing

Get Inspired!

  1. Not sure what you want to write about? Use and subscribe to blogs, legal newsletters and other current awareness sources to identify recent “trending” topics that are too new to have been written about yet.
  2. Talk to faculty and others in the legal profession who research in areas of interest to you.  They may have ideas that they themselves don't have time to research.
  3. What has already piqued your interest in readings, conversation, footnotes?
  4. Think locally and globally: what is of interest to New Mexico? Nationally? Globally?
  5. Think personally: What about your own experiences?
  6. Have you identified a problem in a specific area of law?
  7. Browse legal news sites and blogs e.g. SCOTUSblog.

Narrowing Topic, Finding Issues

  1. Have a general idea of what you want to write about? From there, narrow to specific topics or subtopics.
  2. ›Narrowing usually involves more research.
  3. ›Explore the general area/sub area of law as well as doctrinally connected areas. ›
  4. Look for emerging issues related to the topic.
  5. Think about who is affected by this subject/issue, what are the implications, and what are potential problems.
  6. Critically assess potential topics:
    • Do quick searches of primary and secondary sources to assess the topic's potential. 
    • Is there enough material for you to investigate and evaluate?
    • Is the issue just complex enough to justify devoting a semester (or more!) to it? 
    • What types of resources would be most appropriate?
    • Tip: Find a topic or issue that is large enough to be important and interesting but small enough to be manageable.


Consult Some Experts:

Before a case or statute is discussed in law reviews, it is covered in newspapers, legal newsletters, blogs, or industry magazines and newsletters. Look up legal news using the three major legal research databases. Some legal resources enable you to search for circuit splits or cases of first impression that are worthy of writing about.

  • Look for legal developments
  • Review circuit splits and novel cases
    • What's a circuit split? When two or more Federal Courts of Appeal rule differently on the same issue, it signals that the area of law is undecided and perhaps the Supreme Court might resolve the issue in the future.Researching circuit splits in your area of study can be a way of finding a topic on which to write your papers.
  • Browse recent scholarly publications
  • Mine others' topic ideas, including calls for papers and writing competitions
  • Talk to people

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.

Circuit Split Resources

Need help searching scholarly journals?

Use the UNM Law Library's Finding Journal Articles research guide.

Preemption Check

A preemption check is the process of determining whether the topic you are writing about has been substantially covered by someone else in the past. ›Preemption checks look for substantial treatment only - an article on your topic in a legal newspaper or bar journal is not considered notable.› Even if a topic has been examined by other authors it may still be a valid choice if you differentiate your paper in some way.

To perform a preemption check, conduct a thorough search of available legal publications:

  1. To craft an online search:
    • Think about your topic in legal terms, and construct a list of terms.
    • Best Practice: locate a legal treatise on your topic and use it to identify key terms of art for your topic.
    • Use a legal thesaurus, and thesauri from any related disciplines, to identify alternative terms and phrases.
    • Best Practice: find a list of the search connectors for each database you use to craft the best possible search.
  2. Search the law reviews & journals databases in the big three legal research databases (Bloomberg Law, LexisNexis, and Westlaw)
  3. Search additional full-text law journal databases and indexes as described in the UNM Law Library's Finding Journal Articles research guide.
  4. Make sure to consult indexes like Legal Source.
  5. Search Google Scholar.
  6. Search the UNM Law Library catalog and
  7. Check SSRN/Legal Scholarship Network and other legal scholarship repositories for forthcoming scholarship.
  8. Search American Law Reports for annotations on your topic.  Search ALRs on LexisNexis or ALRs on Westlaw
  9. If your topic is addresses a specific legal discipline or a non-law discipline (like economics or sociology), you should look for substantial treatment of the topic in subject-specific legal or non-legal databases.



Once you select a topic and do your preliminary research, you need to develop a thesis statement.

A thesis statement is the central idea upon which your entire paper will focus and it includes the issue that you will resolve. Some things to keep in mind are:

Thesis: an original and supportable proposition about the subject.

It is not enough to simply identify a problem; you need to try to resolve it.

Narrow your thesis to something manageable.

  • If the focus is sufficiently narrow, you will be able to read a lot of material and become an expert in that one area in a relatively short amount of time.
  • Sometimes, your initial research will suggest ways to narrow focus.

Develop Your Thesis.

  • Find one new point, one new insight, one new way of looking at the law, and organize your entire article around that.
  • Probe sources to search for an original thesis: critical reading.
  • Write down ideas while you read.

After you identify your thesis, test it.

  • If your thesis identifies a problem and proposes a solution, bombard it with hypotheticals to see if the solution works in all its likely applications.
Take a look at the books in the box to the left! More helpful titles in the UNM Law Library's collection.

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