One of the most difficult parts of academic research can be choosing a topic to research and write about. This guide will provide a few tips for selecting a topic.
The best research topics are those in which the researcher has a vested interest or deep passion. Research is easier (or at least more enjoyable) if you truly want to find the answer to your research question. So, consider your own personal experience with your subject matter. Maybe you have been involved in or witnessed some questionable employment activities. Consider your prior work experience. Maybe you've been involved in a particularly interesting case and want to dive in a little deeper.
Legal blogs (or "blawgs," if you must) can provide information on the latest developments in a particular legal field. Some of the best blogs in the field of Employment Law include the following:
The Adjunct Law Profs Blog tags some of their posts as "Law Review Ideas." These are posts about topics that the authors believe are interesting enough to be the basis for law review articles, but that the authors themselves do not have time to research. While these posts are not limited to employment law topics, it is worth checking if you are low on ideas.
Like blogs, there are various news resources that can keep you up-to-date on the most recent happenings in the field of employment law. While these are all available for free to Chapman law students, they all cost money out in the real world.
Law 360 - You can use the filters on the left to narrow your results to articles relating to specific topics (e.g., employment) or jurisdictions (e.g., California)
BNA Law Reports - BNA's Law Reports, available on Bloomberg Law, are well respected by legal practitioners. Of particular interest here are the Workplace Law Report, the Employment Discrimination Report, and the Disabilities Newsletter.
California Employment Law Letter - This is a great current awareness resource focusing on California-specific employment law issues.
A circuit split occurs when two or more of the U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals disagree on a legal issue. Because circuit splits are often settled by the U.S. Supreme Court, they are ripe for academic probing and analysis. U.S. Law Week, available on Bloomberg Law, publishes Circuit Split Charts, providing overviews of circuit splits that have arisen in a given month.
Once you have selected a topic, you must begin researching. Trying to figure out where to start can be daunting. We would recommend starting with a treatise to provide a solid overview of your topic. Try searching in the index for terms relating to your topic, or browsing the table of contents to find relevant sections.
Labor & Employment Law, by Peter Lareau, available on Lexis
Employment Discrimination Law, by Barbara Lindemann, Paul Grossman, & Geoffrey Weirich, available on Bloomberg Law
Next, try to find articles that have discussed your topic, so that you can see what other scholars are saying about it. You can use Westlaw or Lexis to do this, but there are more advanced tools at your disposal as well.
The main advantage of Legal Source is that it allows you to search for articles by subject, rather than by words alone, like Lexis and Westlaw do. So, on Lexis and Westlaw, if your search terms do not appear in the document, you are not going to find it. On Legal Source, though, you can find all articles categorized under a certain subject, regardless of whether they actually contain your search terms. To do this, run a normal search, but once you view a result, click one (or more) of the subjects listed to see other articles on the same subject.
In this example, I initially searched for "pregnancy discrimination," and once I viewed a result, I could then find my way to all articles on the subject of "Pregnancy discrimination -- Law & legislation."
This resource works the same way as the Index to Legal Periodicals and Books, but it has a broad academic (rather than purely legal) focus. You should always be wary of being too hyper-focused on "legal" materials. Non-legal commentators have valuable contributions to make in most legal fields. In the realm of employment, you may find relevant commentary in human resources or sociological journals, for example.
Searching Google Scholar should be more intuitive, as it works the same way Google does. Google Scholar should provide links to the full-text articles if they are available through one of Chapman's subscription databases.
Much of employment law is statutory - e.g., the Americans with Disabilities Act, Title VII, the Family Medical Leave Act, the California Fair Employment & Housing Act, etc. So, often you will begin your research knowing the relevant statute, and will need to find more material from there. To do so, consult an annotated code - U.S.C.A. on Westlaw, or U.S.C.S. on Lexis. Review the Notes of Decisions to see what cases have discussed your statute, and review the citing references to see what else (e.g., secondary sources) has cited your statute.
Similarly, sometimes you will have a citation to a leading case, but may not know where to go from there. Use a citator - Shepard's on Lexis or KeyCite on Westlaw - to find other cases and additional materials that have cited your case.
If you really want to dig in to the history of a case or find material on a pending case, you can use Bloomberg Law to pull the case docket - that is, all the court filings in the case. This allows you to see everything that the parties presented to the court, which can provide you a much fuller picture of the litigation than merely the final opinion.
To access the docket search function, click on Browse All Content in the top left corner of the Bloomberg Law homepage. Then click Litigation & Dockets. Then select Dockets Search.
Select your court or courts from the drop-down menu.
Enter the docket number, being sure to follow the required format:
Click Search. Once within the docket, click View or Request to view the specific document. "View" indicates that the document has already been requested by someone using Bloomberg Law, and you can view it immediately. "Request" indicates that you are the first user requesting the item, and there may be a delay in obtaining it.
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