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Publishing for Legal Scholars

A guide to publishing for legal scholars

What is a preemption check

A preemption check involves searching to discover if a scholar has already written an article, book or book chapter on a topic that shares the same thesis as a proposed topic or article. It is used by authors and by editors of law reviews to ensure originality. Of course, there are many published articles on similar topics, but each article should add something novel to the expert knowledge in the field. So, articles that explore different facets of the same topic, make a new prescriptive claim, critique or narrow a claim, etc. are novel because they add to the scholarly conversation.


How to do it

A preemption check is comprehensive, that is, it looks for the entire scholarly conversation on your topic. Consequently, you must find every article on your topic. To do so, you will need to use multiple tools and multiple search strategies, including running different types of searches in each database or source. Here is a list of types of searches:

  • Keyword — terms and connectors
  • Keyword — natural language
  • Subject / Descriptor searches
  • Case Name
  • Statute Name

Run these searches for articles, books, book chapters and dissertations in the following types of sources:

  • Legal article indexes
  • Full-text sources for legal articles
  • Historical legal article indexes if your topic is historical
  • International and foreign legal article indexes and full-text sources if your topic warrants
  • Indexes and full-text sources for non-legal articles if your topic has an interdisciplinary focus
  • ScholarOneSearch for articles, books, book chapters and dissertations
  • SSRN and bepress for working papers

Then, set up alerts to keep current on newly-published articles

Because of it's comprehensive nature, some of your search results will overlap. This means that you are doing the preemption check correctly. But it is easy to get distracted. It is important to keep a log of the sources you checked and the searches you did, so that you don't accidentally skip a step — or repeat a step unnecessarily. It is also critical to keep track of your results so that you keep adding the unique items from your different searches and sources to your unique results list.

The Sources

You can find most of the sources you need on the Law Library's webpage and the NU University Library's webpage.

Law Library Databases A-Z webpage

Use the A-Z list to link to the following databases to look for law review articles and some interdisciplinary articles. The A-Z list has descriptions of each of these resources.

SSRN and bepress for working papers

ScholarOneSearch for articles, books, book chapters and dissertations

Locate online Research Guides to discover subject specific and interdisciplinary journals at NUSL, the University Library and on the Internet