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Researching and Writing a Law Review Note or Seminar Paper: Hard-to-Find and Hard-to-Cite-Sources

This guide points to library resources that can be used to assist with writing a law review note or a A-paper--including selecting a topic, conducting a preemption check, researching the topic, drafting the text and perfecting the footnotes.


Tips for when you can't find a source.

  • Use a research guide covering the subject relating to the type of item you are looking for. NYU Law Library's research guides are available here. Here is a page that lists research guides on various law library websites by state and by topic. Globalex is a great source of guides on foreign and international research topics.
  • Reach out to reference librarians. They might be able to point you to a source that you had not previously considered or suggest a new strategy. Other times, they may be able to confirm that you have exhausted all possible Library and publicly available resources. 
  • Understand that not all material is retrievable via Library resources. 
  • Run searches to see how other law reviews and books have cited the item or similar items. The results of these search might give you a hint regarding where the item is available or published. HeinOnline's Law Journal Library and Westlaw can be good places to start. Full text searchable ebook collections and Google Scholar can also be accessed. If the search for the item returns no results, try just searching a portion(s) of the citation for the item. There could be an error in your citation that is causing the lack of results.
  • Verify that there is not an error in the citation of the item you are trying to find. Such errors can prevent you from finding it. One way to do this is to search for parts of the citation you have in various combinations. Choose the portions of the citation that you are most confident are accurate. Sometimes checking an author's resume or publication list can illuminate errors in a citation. 

Hard-to-Cite Sources

Tips for when you don't know how to cite a source.

  • Check the table of contents and index for the citation manual you are using or run a search if you have online access to the manual. There may be an applicable rule that you are not aware of.
  • You can also run searches to see how other law reviews have cited the item or similar items. HeinOnline's Law Journal Library and Westlaw can be good places to start. When looking at how other journals have cited an item, keep a few things in mind. One, you do not want to repeat another person's mistake. So, after you've seen some examples, always go back to the citation manual you are using and verify that the citation structure follows the pertinent rules or logic. Second, check how multiple sources cited the item. Consider the reliability of the citing source.  The Bluebook is compiled by the editors of the Columbia Law Review, the Harvard Law Review, the University of Pennsylvania Law Review, and The Yale Law Journal, so those might be journals to look at if they offer a relevant citation. Third, remember that citation rules change over time. If a journal cited the item several years ago, make sure that the pertinent citation rule has not changed. (Of course, checking how other sources cite an item does not relieve you from checking that the source supports the relevant proposition for which it's cited and so on.)

Tips for when the Bluebook (or other citation manual you are using) does not appear to cover the item you want to cite. Some types of things and issues that pop up in citations are not covered by the Bluebook (or other citation manuals). Oftentimes, the Bluebook will have a clear rule applying to an type of material or issue. Other times, it does not. In those cases:

  • You may need to look at several rules, interpret the intent of those rules, and apply the logic as best you can to the item you want to cite. Be sure to explain to your senior editors the rules you looked at and how those rules impacted the structure of your citation.  
  • You may need to analogize your citation to another in the Bluebook. The Bluebook's introduction advises, "[w]hen citing material of a type not explicitly discussed in this book, try to locate an analogous type of authority that is discussed and use that citation form as a model. Always be sure to provide sufficient information to allow the reader to find the cited material quickly and easily." Again, document for your editors the rules you consulted and how those rules impacted the structure of your citation. 
  • You might also want to consult another citation manual