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Resources for Law Journal Staff Members

A guide to resources for law journal staff members at UNC School of Law.

Purpose of Preemption Checking

Purpose of Preemption Checking

Before finalizing your proposed topic, you must conduct a preemption check. A thorough and complete preemption check should accomplish two goals:

  1. Ensure that your proposed thesis has not already been addressed by someone else.
    • Topics that are not preempted tend to fall into one of two categories: (1) pieces on new and novel topics, or (2) pieces providing a new perspective or argument on a topic that has already been written about.
  2. Identify whether there are sufficient resources (especially legal) for you to use in your research and writing process.

Remember: Everything that you collect and review during the preemption checking process can be used as a part of your research. Save what you review!

Preemption Checking Guidelines

Guidelines for Preemption Checking
  1. Generate your search terms/phrases.

    • Choose a set of search terms/phrases that allow you to run both broad and narrow searches. Test out your search terms and adjust, if needed.

    • Use both Boolean operators and keyword searches. To read more about Boolean searching, check out this overview.

  2. Search for published law journal articles.

  3. Search for articles in other disciplines, if necessary.

  4. Search for books/book chapters on your topic.

    • Use the UNC Law Library catalog to search for books on your topic.

      • Advanced searches can be run here.

    • Google Books and Amazon provide limited previews of many titles.

  5. Search for unpublished articles and working papers.

    • Suggested Databases: SSRN, bepress Legal Repository, Google Scholar

      • In SSRN, try starting with broad keyword searches, then use the "Search Within" box to narrow from there.

      • In bepress Legal Repository, there is a helpful "Browse by Subject" search filter that can help you target your searches.

      • Google Scholar can help you find conference papers that are not typically published by law journals.

      • This is a very important step, as you are probably writing on a new or emerging issue. This step allows you to view forthcoming publications before they are published and preempt you.

  6. Subscribe to current awareness alerts.