Topic selection and thesis development the process of scholarly writing part 1
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Topic Selection and Thesis Development (The Process of Scholarly Writing - Part 1). Sue Provenzano, Co-Director of Academic Counseling.

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Topic selection and thesis development the process of scholarly writing part 1 l.jpg

Topic Selection and Thesis Development(The Process of Scholarly Writing - Part 1)

Sue Provenzano, Co-Director of Academic Counseling


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“Scholarly writing [requires students] … to synthesize all that is currently known on a subject to see how it fits together. Originality most often comes after expertise is established.”

- Elizabeth Fajans & Mary R. Falk, Comments Worth Making: Supervising Scholarly Writing in Law Schools, 46 J. Legal Educ. 342, 344 (1996).


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Today: all that is currently known on a subject to see how it fits together. Originality most often comes after expertise is established.”

  • WHY: What Motivates the Process of Student Scholarly Writing

  • WHAT:

    • What is Academic Writing?

    • Topic Selection & Thesis Development: Finding Your Passion and Niche

  • WHERE NEXT: Article Format


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What Motivates the Process of all that is currently known on a subject to see how it fits together. Originality most often comes after expertise is established.” Student Scholarly Writing

  • You – the Writer

    • Meet Requirement

    • Engage With Discipline

    • Develop Personal Philosophy

    • Feed Curiosity and Inform Professional Life

  • Them – the Audience

    • Difference in Purpose

    • Audience Attributes


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What is Academic Writing? all that is currently known on a subject to see how it fits together. Originality most often comes after expertise is established.”

  • A Descriptive-Prescriptive Combination

    • Descriptive Claim

    • Prescriptive Claim

  • Creative, Original Thinking

  • Always Check with Professor


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Topic Selection and Thesis Development: all that is currently known on a subject to see how it fits together. Originality most often comes after expertise is established.” Finding Your Passion and Niche

  • The Topic/Thesis/Niche Connection

  • Finding a Topic, Exploring Your Thesis, Establishing Your Niche

  • Checking for Preemption

  • Types of Articles

  • Jurisprudential Approaches


The topic thesis niche connection l.jpg
The Topic/Thesis/Niche Connection all that is currently known on a subject to see how it fits together. Originality most often comes after expertise is established.”

  • Topic Passion

  • Thesis -- Basic

  • Thesis Originality – Niche

    • Novel, Non-Obvious, Useful, Sound

  • Usual Suspects

  • Find, Explore, & Establish


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Developing Your Topic/Thesis/Niche all that is currently known on a subject to see how it fits together. Originality most often comes after expertise is established.”

  • Class, Faculty, Others

  • Print Sources

  • On-line sources, esp. at NU Law


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Developing Your Topic/Thesis/Niche: all that is currently known on a subject to see how it fits together. Originality most often comes after expertise is established.” Class, Faculty, Others

  • Course readings and discussions

  • Current events

  • Conversations with advising professor, employers, practitioners, classmates

  • A note on talking with faculty

    • Knowing limits

    • Asking for direction

    • Bouncing ideas

  • Your own expertise


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Developing Your Topic/Thesis/Niche: all that is currently known on a subject to see how it fits together. Originality most often comes after expertise is established.” Print Sources

  • Legal & popular newspapers & magazines

  • Casebook notes, questions, & comments

  • Looseleaf services (BNA & USLW)

    • USLW Circuit Split round up

  • Commercial outlines

  • Treatises

  • Certiorari petitions (careful)


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Developing Your Topic/Thesis/Niche: all that is currently known on a subject to see how it fits together. Originality most often comes after expertise is established.” On-line Sources

  • http://supct.law.cornell.edu

    • Cornell’s LII

      • Law events, court decisions, legislation

      • Supreme Court cases, pending and decided

  • www.law.com

  • NU Law Library Resources and Links (see handout)


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Developing Your Topic/Thesis/Niche all that is currently known on a subject to see how it fits together. Originality most often comes after expertise is established.” : More On-line Sources

  • CALR: splits & topical

    • WL: SCT-PREVIEW (search “circuit w/5 split”)

    • LEXIS: Legal > Secondary Legal > American Bar Association (ABA) > ABA Journals > Preview of United States Supreme Court Cases (search split)

    • WL: Bulletins (WLB) & Topical Highlights (WTH)

  • CALR: journals (full text & titles)

    • LEXIS: Law Review Combined, Index to Legal Periodicals, Legal Resource Index

    • WL: JLR, CILP, ILP, LRI


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Checking for Preemption all that is currently known on a subject to see how it fits together. Originality most often comes after expertise is established.”

  • Broadly define terms and scope

    • Articles: Title search > Abstracts > Full Text

    • Books: casebooks, treatises, hornbooks

  • Don’t let it bring you down – add nuance if necessary

  • Save research – for footnotes, to double check points, to change direction, to save time, energy, wrinkles, & sleep


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Types of Articles all that is currently known on a subject to see how it fits together. Originality most often comes after expertise is established.”

  • Case cruncher

  • Law reform article

  • Legislative note

  • Interdisciplinary

  • Theory-fitting article

  • Legal profession, legal language, legal argument or legal education

  • Learned dialogue on pre-existing debate

  • Legal history

  • Case note

  • Empirical research

  • Comparative law


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Jurisprudential Approaches all that is currently known on a subject to see how it fits together. Originality most often comes after expertise is established.”

  • Formalism

  • Legal Realism

  • Legal Process

  • Fundamental Rights

  • Law and Economics

  • Critical Legal Studies

  • Critical Race Studies

  • Feminist Jurisprudence

  • Queer Theory


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Writing Tips as You all that is currently known on a subject to see how it fits together. Originality most often comes after expertise is established.” Prepare to Move Forward

  • Be organized

  • Be clear in your mind

  • Think about where you are going and set deadlines


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Article Format all that is currently known on a subject to see how it fits together. Originality most often comes after expertise is established.” (where you are headed)

  • Basic Four Part Harmony

    • Introduction

    • Background

    • Analysis

    • Conclusion


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Next Presentations all that is currently known on a subject to see how it fits together. Originality most often comes after expertise is established.”

  • Handout & Survey

  • Wednesday, February 1, 12:00-1:00, RB 150: Research/Attribution

  • Wednesday, March 1, 12:00-1:00, RB 150: Building a Scholarly Analysis


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