Note Resources
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Prepared for Drake Law Review & Drake Journal of Agricultural Law

Page Outline:

Introduction and Contacts
Starting out Right
What Makes a Good Note Topic?
Sources for Topic Selection
Preemption Checks
Keeping Current
Additional Research Sources
Interlibrary Loan
Citation Resources

Introduction and Contacts

Law Library personnel are happy to assist you with your law review and journal work. This page presents tips for identifying and locating supporting sources and guidelines for using library materials and services. Please feel free to ask for help at the Information Desk or contact a member of the Law Library faculty or staff directly.

Research Help

During the regular academic year, reference librarians are typically available Monday - Thursday 8 a.m. - 9 p.m. and Friday 8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. to provide research guidance. Consult the reference schedule for most current information.

John Edwards (271-2141, 
Sara Lowe (271-2053,
Karen Wallace (271-2989,
David Hanson (271-2077,
Deborah Sulzbach (271-3784,
Julie Thomas (271-2052,

Computer Help

If you’re having computer problems, ask at the Information Desk, or ask Shawn Madsen (271-4963, or David Hanson (271-2077, for assistance.

Starting Out Right

Two widely recommended books for law students writing papers are

Elizabeth Fajans & Mary R. Falk, Scholarly Writing for Law Students: Seminar Papers, Law Review Notes, and Law Review Competition Papers (3d ed. 2005).
Reserve KF250 .F35 2005

Eugene Volokh, Academic Legal Writing: Law Review Articles, Student Notes, Seminar Papers, and Getting on Law Review (3d. Ed. 2007)
Reserve KF 250 .V64 2007

Both titles provide advice on a range of issues, including choosing a suitable topic, effective research strategies, writing process and style, and more.

A shorter treatment is found in Austen L. Parrish & Dennis T. Yokoyama, Effective Lawyering: A Checklist Approach to Legal Writing and Oral Argument (2007).
Reserve KF250 .P37 2007
Chapter 7 provides a brief overview of an academic writing process, fundamentals for law review articles, tips on getting published, and a checklist to help you evaluate your writing.

In a research guide for students writing notes and papers, the Georgetown Law Library offers these tips:
    Plan Ahead. . . . You are required to do thorough, scholarly research - this cannot be done in a day or a weekend. Allow yourself enough time to find, read, and analyze your research materials before your outline, draft, and final paper are due. Also, plan ahead for interlibrary loan requests - they could be here in a few days or a few weeks. We cannot predict how long it will take to obtain materials through interlibrary loan. See the University of Minnesota Assignment Calculator to help you create a timeline for your research and writing.

    Keep Track of Your Research. There are many ways to keep track of your research - either electronically on your laptop or PC, or in a paper notebook. However you choose to keep your research log, be sure to keep track of where you've been as you do your research. Remember, you will need to provide complete citations to all of the material you use in your paper - this will be much easier if you have a complete record of the research you've done. Use your research log to make notes about where you found useful materials and how you plan to use them in your paper. The research log is also a good place to note useful sources to go back to later as you refine your paper with additional research and analysis.

    Stay Focused on Your Topic. One of the easiest mistakes to make as you begin your research is to find and read interesting materials that are not directly relevant to your work. If you think they may be useful later, make a note of them in your research log. Always stay focused on what you need to research at the stage you are in. You can always go back to good sources later.
In addition, it may be useful to review the Drake Law Library's research tips.

To make sure your research and writing are on track and you will finish on time, try the University of Minnesota Libraries Assignment Calculator.  Simply input your start date and finish date (subject is optional) and the calculator will determine when you should have your research completed, start your rough draft, etc…

What Makes a Good Note Topic?

A crucial step in the writing process, topic selection merits careful consideration. The time invested in topic selection can pay off many times over in the forms of fewer, more enjoyable hours of research and writing and a more robust final product. Consider these words from a law student writing his note: “I almost certainly should have taken more care in choosing my note topic, concentrating not only on what I wanted to write and research, but on the audience that I would be expected to address.” (See the Note archive on the blog Three Years of Hell to Become the Devil. The same student also attests to the hours that will be spent writing a note: “Afraid I'm in the midst of a very long date with Miss Note, which is why you've not seen me for a few days. It's the blind date from hell, by the way, and there are so many things I'd rather be doing than making googly eyes at her for hours on end.”)

To select a good note topic, you must first clearly understand your objective. The staff manuals for both the Law Review and Journal explain that “a Note should identify ideas and trends, highlight weakness, and provide an analytical framework for better understanding the complexities of the subject matter.” Reviewing student notes published in recent issues of the Drake Law Review or Drake Journal of Agricultural Law can be informative, as can discussion with senior staff and faculty.

It may also be helpful to review advice from other publications, such as the two listed below. (You will want to remember that they may have different writing requirements for their staff members and filter their advice accordingly.)

Columbia Law Review Publishable Notes Manual
This manual describes eight common types of notes and provides examples of some recently published and frequently cited notes. It also provides five strategies for finding a topic and advice on structuring a note and conducting preemption checks, as well as a giving a few research hints.

The Stanford Law Review – Guide to Student Submissions
The Notes Committee of the Stanford Law Review produced a Guide to Student Submissions, which summarizes ten characteristics of notes that have been accepted for publication (see page four).

Sources for Topic Selection

The Sources for Topic Selection page provides resources and strategies to help you arrive at a topic, as well as providing additional advice on what makes a good note.

Preemption Checks

The Preemption Check page suggests sources to help ensure your contribution will be unique and that there is not a forthcoming change in law that would render your argument meaningless.

Keeping Current

The Current Awareness page suggests additional sources and strategies to keep you informed about recently developments with your topic, such as using search alerts.

Additional Research Sources

By the time you have found a topic and determined it is suitable, you will have already done quite a bit of research. Since you will undoubtedly have been keeping good notes, you will easily be able to get back to sources that will be useful in the hard-research stage of writing your note.

Other sources that will be useful will depend upon your topic. I hope we can work together to develop this section of the research guide further as the year progresses. If you identify any sources that are particularly useful or areas that you think should be added to this guide, please e-mail Karen Wallace. For now, the following resources may well be useful.

Drake Law Library Cite Checking Tips and Guidelines

Many of the resources listed in the cite-checking guide are also relevant for original research (as opposed to locating known citations). The following topics are discussed.

Agricultural Law Sources

International and Foreign Research

State and Local Law Research

Finding Statistics

Other Research Guides
    Interlibrary Loan (ILL)

    Items not available in the Drake libraries may be requested via interlibrary loan. The Drake Law Library interlibrary loan page includes more information about this service and forms for students.

    Note: students using interlibrary loan when writing a law review or journal note should do so under their own name, not the name of the publication.
    Citation Resources

    Once Again—Ask Us

    Don’t hesitate to ask for any assistance you may need. The Information Desk staff and reference librarians are here to help you!
    Prepared by Karen Wallace, Circulation/Reference Librarian
    Last Revised: August 2009, SL
    Please feel free to e-mail author with suggestions on improving this guide.


    Last Modified: 8/20/2009 9:08:00 AM by Sara Lowe