Preemption checks are an important step in writing for a law review or journal, their primary purpose being to see whether someone else has already written an article on the same topic, with the same thesis, and with the same focus. This matters because law reviews and journals use originality as part of the publishing criteria. In short, a preemption check will ensure that the specific topic and focus you've chosen will add to existing scholarship.
For a thorough preemption check, take the following steps:
Search for legal articles using legal article indexes.
Search for legal articles — including working papers — using full-text sources for legal articles.
Search for non-legal articles if your topic has an interdisciplinary slant.
Search for books and book chapters.
Set up alerts to keep current on newly-published articles.
Be sure that articles on the same topic you encounter in your preemption search are read in their entirety so that you can determine whether your idea can be differentiated. Not only will these steps help ensure that your thesis is novel, but it will also provide you with an arsenal of scholarly works that can help refine your own research. For more information, check out this preemption checklist provided by the University of San Francisco's Law Library here. For practice on preemption checking, check out this CALI lesson.
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