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Law Review: Law Library Support for Members of the Boston College Law Review

Purpose of Preemption Checking

The purpose of preemption checking is twofold:

  • To make sure there is something new to say on an issue
    • New and novel topic
    • New perspective if topic has been written about
  • To make sure there are sufficient resources (especially legal) to cite

Preemption Checking Tips

Search engine / database searching:

  • For the most precise results, use Boolean search logic.
    • AND, OR, NOT
  • Natural language searching will yield less precise results.
  • Lexis Advance is primarily a Boolean search with relevancy ranked results.  Make use of the Search Tips link to have Lexis add connectors for you and learn more about the connectors available for you to search with.
  • Westlaw will automatically add related terms to your search and present results in a crowd-sourced relevancy ranking.  This means items most frequently accessed are listed first.  
    • Take advantage of the advanced search templates on Westlaw to create more precise searches.

Don't give up on a topic too soon:

  • If you are locating articles already discussing your topic, ask if you can adjust your topic or approach it in a new way.  Are you able to critique another author's analysis and bring new light to an issue?  Can you compare how the issue has been addressed in other jurisdictions and other countries?  Think about various ways to tweak your topic so it can bring a new voice to the academic discussion.

What to do if you find nothing:

  • If you aren't finding anything on your topic, is it because there is nothing there or is it that you are looking in the wrong place or in the wrong way?  If there is absolutely nothing, you may want to reconsider your search terms.  Look at the sources you plan on citing to in your note and Shepardize or KeyCite them to find out how other scholars have referred to them.

Keep a detailed record:

  • It's a long time between initial preemption checking and final publication - keeping a detailed research record will help you revisit your research to double check facts and citations.  Complete citations and detailed notes will make this easier.  When in doubt, download.
  • Prior to publication, you will want to update all primary sources and watch for preempting articles.

Searching for Topical Articles and Books

Library catalogs can provide note writers with a variety of information including whether a book on your topic exists and where books on your topic or related to it are located.  Two popular catalogs are:

Law review indexes can assist with preemption checking because they index published law reviews with a controlled vocabulary.  This means you can find articles on the same topic even if they use different terminology.  Three indexes you will want to consult are listed below.

Full-text law review databases are not a substitute for indexes, however they can provide access to a variety of published law review articles that may assist with topic development.  Three popular resources are HeinOnline, Lexis Advance, and Westlaw.

Article abstract indexes and electronic paper collections, such as Social Science Research Network (SSRN) are great tools for preemption checking.  These tools allow writers to check the abstracts and pre-publication drafts of papers by a variety of authors in different subject areas.  Within SSRN, note writers may want to focus on the Legal Scholarship Network (LSN).

News Resources

Legal news resources can provide insight into current topics that may be helpful for developing a note topic.  There are many places to access legal news:

  • Legal Blogs (or blawgs); and
  • Practice Centers on major research platforms like Bloomberg Law, Lexis Advance, and Westlaw.

Other legal news resources that can be helpful are listed below:

Nonlegal news resources can also be helpful in both topic development and preemption checking.  Staying on top of current events with resources like the New York Times, the Financial Times, and others can allow writers to learn about new areas where noteworthy topics may live.  It can also be beneficial to search using resources like Factiva.