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Legal Writing: Conducting a Preemption Check


Choosing a Paper Topic
     In Introduction
     Ask a Librarian
     Circuit Splits
     Hot Legal Topics
     Further Reading
     General Legal News
     Law Blogs

Conducting a Preemption Check
     Does Your Paper Add New                             Information to the Field?
     Legal Indexes
     Full-Text Legal Databases
     Multidisciplinary Journal Content
     Working Paper Repositories

Avoiding Plagiarism
     Academic Integrity and Plagiarism
     Best Practices for Avoiding Plagiarism
     Resources for More Information


Academic Search Premier
Academic Search Premier indexes over 8,500 journals from 1975 to the present and covers most areas of academic study.

JSTOR is a full-text archive of over 1,000 academic journals in the humanities, social sciences, and sciences.

Google Scholar
Google Scholar enables you to search specifically for scholarly literature, including peer-reviewed papers, theses, books, preprints, abstracts and technical reports from all broad areas of research. 


Working papers depositories house research papers in development.

Social Science Research Network (SSRN)
The SSRN eLibrary contains abstracts and downloadable full-text versions of working papers.


Why conduct a preemption check
Before starting to research and write on your chosen topic you must determine whether that topic has already been covered, or preempted, by another author. If your topic has not been addressed you can safely pursue your research and writing. If your topic has been addressed you may still be able to pursue it, if you concentrate on a different aspect of the topic or present a new perspective.   

How to conduct a preemption check
When conducting a preemption check you need to search for articles on your topic using a variety of resources, including indexes to legal journal articles, full-text databases, and working papers depositories. If your topic is interdisciplinary you should also check indexes to journal articles in other subjects. Starting with a list of terms on your topic will be helpful as you conduct your preemption check – consider the subjects your topic may be categorized under and any synonyms for terms on your list. As you search the various resources listed below, be sure to keep track of where you have searched, the search queries you made, and your search results. This will help you avoid duplicate searching and ensure that you did a thorough preemption check. Consider also working through the Preemption Checking CALI Exercise for further explanation of the process of conducting a preemption check.


An index is a database of article citations arranged by subject. When searching in an index you are led to citations of relevant articles, and you then use those citations to locate the full-text of the article.

LegalTrac provides citations to articles from 1980 to the present from over 1,500 legal journals, magazines, and newspapers.

Index to Legal Periodicals Retrospective
The Index to Legal Periodicals Retrospective contains citations to articles from over 750 legal periodicals published between 1908 and 1981.

Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals
The Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals contains articles published from 1985 to the present which focus on international, comparative, or foreign law topics, or are written in other languages.


Full-text databases contain the entire text of articles and thus allow you to search every word in an article.

HeinOnline has about 1,600 journals in its law journal library and unlike Westlaw and LexisNexis has coverage beginning with the first issue published.   All articles in HeinOnline are available in their original format in pdf. 

Westlaw Law Reviews and Journals
Acces to law reviews and journals on Westlaw (Westlaw password required).

Lexis Advance Law Reviews and Journals
Access to law reviews and journals on Lexis Advance (Lexis password requried).