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LLM Paper Research - Getting Started

LLM Paper Research - Getting Started


This is a guide to getting started on researching your LLM paper. It introduces you to library resources and research processes that you will use throughout the year as you develop your paper topic and research question.

The research librarians are always happy to answer questions about research. Our contact information is at

Although any of our research librarians can help you, our foreign, comparative, and international law librarians, Jennifer Allison and Stephen Wilesprovide primary research support for LLM students

If you would like to meet with a librarian for a research consult, we recommend that you try to do some initial research on your own first. This will make that meeting a lot more productive!

LLM Training Classes

Visit the law library's research training calendar to sign up for our LLM training classes:

  • Finding a Paper Topic
  • Using Zotero for Citation Management
  • Bluebook 

Law Library Website

The Law Library's website ( is a great place to start your research for your LLM paper.

In the middle of the page (scroll down) are three large buttons that take you to these pages:

  • Find a Database
  • Find a Book or an Article
  • Research a Topic

Library Website - Homepage

Find a Database

The Find a Database page provides lists of links to the law library's subscription databases, organized by type. Click a link in the menu in the middle of the page to access a list of databases of that type.

Library Website - Find a Database Page

Find an Article or a Book

The Find an Article or a Book page provides information, with links, about the following:

  • Legal Literature
  • Academic Literature
  • Working Papers, Preprints, and Reports
  • Newspaper Articles
  • Books at Harvard
  • Books Beyond Harvard
  • Books in Historical Collections

Library Website - Find an Article or a Book Page

Research a Topic

On the Research a Topic page, you can do the following:

  • Request a consultation with a research librarian
  • By clicking Explore a Subject, browse the library's research guide collection
  • Search the Hollis+ library catalog
  • Get instructions for particular tasks (click How do I...)
  • Sign up for a library training session
  • Log into Canvas to access your course websites

To search for information in any of the above categories, enter keywords in the search box at the top of the screen, and click Search.

You can also use the box on the far right side of the screen to start an electronic chat session with a reference librarian. To do this, enter your name in the Name box and and click Start Chat.

Library Website - Research a Topic Page

Exploring and Analyzing the Literature

As you begin to explore the academic literature related to your topic and research question, consider these questions:

What words and phrases are used to discuss this topic?
Which scholars write on this topic frequently?
Which academic journals publish articles on this topic?

Keep track of answers to these questions as you find them. This will help you refine your research and focus on the must appropriate sources.

Analyzing Scholarly Books and Articles

In 2015, the Graduate Program and the Law Library collaborated to create a Source Analysis Worksheet, which you can use as a guide to record your analysis of a book or article that you read during your research.

Two versions of this worksheet are provided below for you to download.

Considering Legal Scholarship Archetypes

See, for reference: Martha Minow, Archetypal Legal Scholarship: A Field Guide (Journal of Legal Education, 2013).

In this 2013 article, Dean Martha Minow describes, with examples, different types of legal scholarship. As you review books and articles related your topic, it may be helpful to you to explore and be mindful of which archetype of legal scholarship they represent, as well as which archetype your LLM paper will follow.

  • Doctrinal Restatement
  • Recasting Project
  • Policy Analysis
  • Proposition Test
  • Assessment of Legal Institutions, Systems, or Institutional Actors
  • Critical Project
  • Comparative / Historical Inquiry
  • Jurisprudence / Philosophy of Law
  • Combinations

Preemption Checking

Your LLM paper topic and research question must be sufficiently narrow and should not have been treated in the academic literature in the exact same way before. The process for ensuring this is called preemption checking.

As you become familiar with the literature on your topic, be sure that you ask yourself the following questions each time you read a book or article:

  • Will my LLM paper add something new to the scholarly conversation on this topic that is not discussed by this book or article?
  • Will my LLM paper analyze this topic in a way that has not been done before?

If you can answer yes to these questions, then your paper topic has not been "preempted" by another scholarly work, and you should feel free to move forward with it. If you are not sure, the Graduate Program can help you determine this.

Keeping Current on Your Research

Remember, you need to keep current on the scholarship related to your topic for as long as you are working on the paper.

Keep running the searches of the academic literature that have been successful for you in finding relevant articles. Many databases and search engines have "alert" services, which run these searches for you and email you the results.

Also, check out current awareness sources from time to time, including newspapers, blogs, Twitter feeds, etc. This will help you keep absolutely up-to-date on the latest literature on your topic. 

For more information about current awareness sources, check out the law library's Finding a Paper Topic research guide. You can also learn more about current awareness sources from a research librarian.

Citation Management Tools (Zotero, Mendeley, etc.)

Some students find it easier to store and track the books, journal articles, and other sources that they discover during their research by using a citation management tool. 

LLM students over the years have used several citation management tools for their LLM papers, including

  • Endnote
  • Mendeley
  • Refworks
  • Zotero

The Harvard Library has a citation management tool research guide that provides more information about each of these tools. You can also request a research consult with a librarian to discuss these tools by visiting and clicking Consult a Librarian.

Citation Format (Bluebook, etc.)

The standard citation format for U.S. legal scholarship is the Bluebook. Note, however, that you should use whichever citation format you and your faculty supervisor agree on.

The law library has print copies of the Bluebook that you can borrow at the circulation desk (library lobby) and at the reference desk (4th floor reference reading room). You can also buy your own copy. Print copies are for sale at the Coop, or you can buy access to the electronic version at Note that the law library does not provide access to the electronic Bluebook for students.

Check out the law library's Bluebook Citation for LLM Students research guide for information about the Bluebook. Also, the law library teaches Bluebook classes specifically for LLM students in both the fall and the spring. 

Finding a Faculty Supervisor

Here are a few options for researching potential faculty supervisors for your LLM paper:

  1. Search the faculty directory website ( by name, interest, and keyword.
  2. Search or browse the Scholarship@Law website (, which lists recent scholarly articles, working papers, and works in collection by HLS faculty members. Updates are published every three months.
  3. Search the Hollis library catalog ( for works by HLS faculty members (enter the professor's name in the Author field on the Advanced Search screen).

If you have additional questions about finding a faculty supervisor, please contact the Graduate Program. 

LLM Paper Writing Groups

Throughout the academic year, LLM students have the opportunity to participate in LLM paper writing groups.

  • Each long paper writer will be placed in a group based on his or her research topic.
  • In addition, there is a single writing group for all short paper writers.

Each LLM long paper writing group has an assigned research librarian who attends group meetings. If you are writing a long paper and request a research consult from a librarian, you will meet with your long paper group's liaison librarian. 

Your participation in writing group activities throughout the year, including research trainings and workshops, is very important. Please make every effort to attend the meetings and offer to workshop your papers as you are working on them.

More Information About Research

If you would like more information about researching a scholarly paper of this type, one good source is Legal Reasoning, Research, and Writing for International Graduate Students (2012 3rd ed.), by Nadia E. Nedzel. You can find this book in the reference reading room on the 4th floor of the Langdell library building, call number REFERENCE KF 240 .N43 2012. Of particular interest is Chapter 10: Advanced Objective Writing. The author outlines a research process for a work of legal scholarship like your LLM paper, with extensive descriptions and examples. 

Below are some additional sources to consider. Note that the are from the social sciences generally, rather than law specifically, but the concepts highlighted below are still relevant.

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