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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Seminar: Children, Culture, and Violence (Law 792-AA): Home

Prepared to help students select topics and find relevant research materials for their course papers.

General Sources

Intro to Research Planning

It's important to begin your research with a plan.

That plan should include both your goals (what are the questions you hope to answer?) and methods for accomplishing those goals (what are the sources you plan to find and examine?).

While your initial instincts to run some searches in Google and in Westlaw or Lexis' caselaw databases may yield some promising results, your plan should be much richer and more detailed in terms of the specific sources you plan to search, and should include the sources most likely to yield the types of materials you need for your research.

Topic Selection & Research Plan

  1. Pick a General area of interest and find at least one of each of the following:
    • Blog posting or other short/informal piece on the topic;
    • Reputable news or practice-oriented short article;
    • Scholarly article from a law journal;
    • Scholarly article from a non-law journal

  2. Write a short reflection about the scholarly articles (about a paragraph long).
    • What did you like or dislike?
    • What did you agree with or disagree with?
    • Why are these pieces engaging?
    • What gaps did they leave, in terms of the questions they answer?
    • Do you object to their theses?

  3. Decide what you can contribute to this topic.
    • Check to be sure no one else has written on your topic;
    • Draft a working thesis statement.

  4. Prepare a research plan:
    • What questions do you need to answer?
    • What sources will you consult?
    • Where will you find these sources?

  5. Work your plan:
    • Check that you've followed all your steps;
    • Be sure you have what you need to answer your question / support your arguments;
    • Ask yourself whether there are materials you still need;
    • Check that there are no gaps in your support;
    • Be sure you've looked in all the relevant major databases for your topic, including non-law resources.

Sample Research Plan Outline

1. 50-state survey of statutes
     - Select state(s) for focus
     - Find leading current statute
     (or pending)

2. Caselaw for selected state(s)
     - Use state statute to search, if applicable
     - Use key numbers to search
     - Refine w/ terms, date, citators (Sh/KC)

3. Regulations, if applicable, for selected state(s)

4. Other Agency Materials, if applicable, for selected state(s)
     - What role does the agency have in this area?
     - Granting benefits/licenses/approvals?
     - Internal guidelines
     - Interpretation of statute

5. Federal statute(s), if applicable
     - as in step 1

6. Federal caselaw, if applicable
     - as in step 2

7. Federal regulations, if applicable
     - as in step 3 and 4

8. Practice materials
     - Forms and guidance 
     - Expert interpretations
     - Handbooks / Deskbooks

9. Non-Law Sources
     - Social Science research
     - Statistics
     - Practice sources in other fields

Researching Your Topic

New to these topics? Begin with an overview of topics using a subject encyclopedia or handbook or your text or the table of contents of a relevant journal, browse and read to get some initial ideas.

Use your text, its footnotes, and other books on topics of interest to expore more of what has already been discussed in your topics of interest. While not as current as recent journal articles, a book can cover a topic in much greater detail.

Search for scholarly Journal Articles in law and other fields, using indexes and journal databases. Articles will provide you with peer-reviewed and scientifically sound research to back your arguments.

Use statistics and/or other data from government sources, independent organizations, advocacy groups etc as needed. 

And finally, find relevant law as necessary to support your paper overall!!