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Preemption Check

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This research guide is intended to provide links to the most popular full-text and index databases that are helpful for students conducting a preemption check while researching a paper topic.  A preemption check should be conducted before a paper topic has been chosen and should be periodically conducted to assure that any new articles that have been published during the writing of the paper are not missed.   Many of the sources you will be consulting are similar to the ones you would find under Finding a Paper Topic or in doing your research generally.

General tips

Preemption checking gives you a head start on your research!   While you are normally not reading the material in quite so much depth as when you are going deeper into your research, it might be a good time to set up reference management tools to manage potentially useful sources you run across. 

The extent to which you search sources might depend on the nature of your writing and the duplication of coverage in research sources available.

Always look for working papers and publications in progress! The publication process is often lengthy, and sometimes it takes some time for new journals to be covered in databases.  General web searching is sometimes helpful.

Even if someone has written on your topic, you can usually find a way to amend your inquiry (e.g. change scope, focus on different aspect, etc.)

Set up current awareness alerting services where possible so you don't have to proactively "check again" later.   Stay abreast of new resources in your field.

Law Reviews and Periodicals

Indexes for legal literature

If your topic covers foreign and international law, there might be additional indexes that you should search.  Foreign Law Guide and Globalex are often useful for identifying relevant indexes and full-text databases.

Full-Text

General tips

You might want to start with indexes because it is easier to identify articles that are actually ABOUT your topic.  Start with keyword search and then use subjects.

Historical Collections

Other Disciplines

Selected databases with broad coverage

Tools for finding additional databases

Working papers/Pre-prints/Unpublished

BePress Legal Repository

Digital Law Commons

General coverage of repositories

Books

Resources

General tips

Start with a keyword search in Hollis+.  When you find relevant books, click link to Hollis Classic and work off the subject headings.

Starting preemption checking in books allows you to become familiar with the discipline(s) involved, "terms of art" and some of the important authors in your field.

Keeping Current

Conferences and Symposia

General tips

Many of our databases now offer alerting services so that you can get future new content from searches that you run.

Keep on top of working papers with SSRN and web search alerts.

Following conferences and symposia allow you to get very early previews to scholarship still in progress.

Additional guides and resources

Bibliographies

You might want to see if someone already has a bibliography compiled on your topic.  In addition to the resources listed below, you can try add "bibliography" as a subject keyword  or keyword search in your searching of catalogs or article databases/indexes.  Particularly useful for broad subject.

Additional research guides

Getting Help

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Getting Help

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HLS students are entitled to receive special research instruction. 

Chat by entering your question in the CHAT box on the left. 

Note:  There is not always a librarian to answer your question, but you will receive help within 12 hours if you leave an email address.

Email research@law.harvard.edu

Visit the Langdell Reference Desk located on the fourth-floor of the Law Library. 

Call the Reference Desk at 617.495.4516.

Subject Guide