In order to determine if your topic has been written about before, and also to gather relevant resources, you will need to conduct what is called a "literature review." This involves gathering sources that relate to your topic.
Step One: Develop Your Searches and Start Your Research Log
The first step in a literature review is to develop your search queries. Write down a brief issue statement, then use that issue statement to formulate potential search terms. You may want to use the Law Library's Legal Research Worksheet to structure your thoughts and develop some initial searches.
As you're running your searches, keep track of the databases you have consulted and the search terms you used in each databases. A good way to do this is to use the following style:
Database: [Name of database]
Search Used: [Exact text of search]
Relevant Results Located: [A description of the search results, including the number of results and the number/type of relevant results located]
You will then need to look through law journal and other databases in order to locate materials. Keep in mind that LexisNexis and Westlaw only include law journal articles from the past 20-25 years, and so many relevant sources will not be included in search results from those databases; to locate more historical articles, you will need to look at HeinOnline and the Index to Legal Periodicals. To conduct a more thorough literature review, you will need to check the following databases:
In addition to these law-specific databases, you will also find many relevant sources by looking at non-law databases that cover history and social sciences. The following are databases that are likely to have relevant results:
In addition to journal articles, there are a number of books that will be relevant to your research. To locate these, run a search in the library catalog, GIL-Find. Keep in mind that the library catalog does not run a full text search, so you may need to search for more general principles (such as "Fifth Amendment" than in article databases.
The books below are examples of books located in the Law Library collection that discuss the construction of and debates over the Constitution. There are a number of other books available on the same topic.
In addition to these strategies, make sure to check for related articles that may not come up directly in your search. There are two ways to do this:
Sometimes it can be difficult to tell if you have located all of the resources you need. A good general rule of thumb for this type of project is to stop once you see the same sources over and over again with no new relevant material.