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As a high school junior, I want to write a research paper on a legal case. How do I get started?

As a dedicated junior with a passion for political science and law, I'm driven by a profound interest in understanding legal systems. I aspire to leverage this passion into an undergraduate degree in political science, ultimately leading to pursuing a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree. I am resourceful and determined, consistently demonstrating strong analytical capabilities and a robust work ethic. My organizational skills and ability to multitask efficiently enable me to excel in both academic and extracurricular endeavors. Collaboration is one of my strengths; I thrive in team environments and am committed to leading with positivity and integrity.

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Jonathan’s Answer

You should try and brief the case. This is a techniques taught to law students so they can better understand case law. You need to write the facts of the case. The issue presented. The rule of law and the rationale for the decision. Once you have briefed the case you can write freely on its meaning and significance of the decision.
Thank you comment icon Thank you for outlining how to brief a case! I appreciate you taking the time and effort to teach me this technique. Riya
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Kim’s Answer

If you really want a challenge. . . The Supreme Court may issue a ruling this Wednesday(June 27, 2024) overturning or at least limiting a 40-year old case. The Chevron Deference Doctrine , https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/chevron_deference


Oversimplifying, in school we are always taught about the 3 branches of government, and how the legislature "makes" the laws. This isn't exactly true. The legislature might provide the framework of the laws, but the nitty-gritty details are hammered out by administrative agencies. These agencies draft their proposed rules, and post them for public comment in the Federal Register. https://guides.loc.gov/administrative-law/rules

In the Chevron case, again, oversimplifying, the Court held that it would defer to the agency when interpreting ambiguous rules.

In the opinion of many people, these administrative agencies have grown to a size that it is often referred to as the 4th branch of government.

Two cases currently before the court. Oral arguments before the Supreme Court happened this past January. (If you've never watched court arguments, this is interesting!)

https://www.supremecourt.gov/oral_arguments/audio/2023/22-451

https://www.supremecourt.gov/oral_arguments/audio/2023/22-1219

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Another case worth looking at, totally separate from this one, is Marbury v. Madison, decided in 1803, in which the Court for the first time ruled a congressional act unconstitutional. Nothing in the Constitution actually says the Supreme Court can overrule a congressional act . https://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution-conan/article-3/section-1/marbury-v-madison-and-judicial-review

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Anyway, if you have other areas of specific interest, please tell us what they are, and we can refer you to an applicable case law to research.

I admire your ambition!
Thank you comment icon Thank you so much for providing such a detailed and insightful response to my question! Your explanation about the Chevron Deference Doctrine and its potential upcoming challenge in the Supreme Court was incredibly informative. You have a deep understanding of administrative law and the complexities surrounding governmental branches and their interactions. I appreciate the resources you shared, including the links to oral arguments and relevant case law like Marbury v. Madison. Thank you once again for taking the time to share your expertise and knowledge with me. Riya
Thank you comment icon You're welcome! I was exposed to all of this in a Master's Level Paralegal program. It's intense! Good luck with your research. you may want to explore the Cornell Wex site (first link), it's a wealth of information! Kim Igleheart
Thank you comment icon Hi Kim, while I have no knowledge of law, this has sent me down a whole rabbit hole. Thank you for sharing these cases! Gurpreet Lally, Admin
Thank you comment icon Gurpreet, Handle with care. When you come to realize how many laws are made by people far removed from the legislative process, and how many of those people used to work for the industry they are now regulating, you will begin to grasp the full magnitude of the situation. Ms. Riya is wise beyond her years - she will go far! Kim Igleheart
Thank you comment icon And, it happened! Today, the Court overturned Chevron. I honestly don't know the full ramifications, but, it is huge. Kim Igleheart
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Nancy’s Answer

Starting point here is the topic. You will want to pick a topic that you have some interest in, so that you are not merely reciting back what the case said, but taking a stance on it, and extending it to other applications beyond the immediate facts of the case. For a richer summary, you may want to consider something at an appellate level, even a Supreme Court case (as one other response suggested), as there will be prior court decisions from lower courts to help your understanding of the case and the arguments presented by both sides.
Good luck!
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Katharine’s Answer

Hi Riya,
As someone who loves writing and research, I'm happy to help you. Your question title talks about wanting to write a research paper and not knowing where to start, and your body paragraph tells me a lot about what you want to do with your degree and the qualifications you bring to it. These are all great.
My question back to you is this: Why do you want to write a research paper? Is this a requirement for a class? Is this based on personal interest and love of learning? I ask, because depending on which scenario you are in I think I would advise you to follow different paths:

-If this is for a class, I encourage you to go to your teacher during office hours and ask if you can bounce some ideas off of them. Your teachers, at all levels, are there to help you. Talk to them about your what kind of law you want to go into, and ask them to make a recommendation. Talking to your classmates can also help, but make sure you're discussing at a high level so you don't end up writing similar papers.

-If this is for personal interest, why not look at some of the cases that have gone before the US Supreme Court (SCOTUS) in recent years? The Library of Congress has all the opinions by case and by justice (https://www.loc.gov/collections/united-states-reports/about-this-collection/) as well as collections of other legal cases (https://www.loc.gov/research-centers/law-library-of-congress/collections/digital-collections/). I used the Library of Congress as a source for a research paper I did in high school, it can be very helpful.

Good luck to you, and please let me know if you have further questions!
Thank you comment icon Thank you so much, Ms. Sobotka! I would like to extend my sincere gratitude for your valuable insights and the effort you put into providing me with your response. I wish to write a research paper for personal interest. I will explore the Library of Congress website for research help. Thank you! Riya
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Sheli’s Answer

Hello Riya,

It's fantastic to see you embarking on this journey at such an early stage!

While reading the case itself can certainly shed some light, I found during my time in law school that the most profound understanding often came from reviews and academic articles discussing the case. Google Scholar is an excellent free tool where you may discover a multitude of papers related to the case you're studying.

Alternatively, consider exploring your local law school and law library. There's a chance you could gain access to valuable resources like Westlaw or LexusNexus. Moreover, they might be able to offer you some guidance.

Best wishes,
Sheli
Thank you comment icon Thank you so much, Ms. DeNola! I will look into those resources and explore my local law library. I truly appreciate your guidance. Riya
Thank you comment icon Thanks Ms. DeNola! Texas State Law Library is in fact free to its residents, with a wealth of information available on-line, and, research assistance also available! Kim Igleheart
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Hakeem Ola’s Answer

Getting Started with a Legal Case Research Paper
Step 1: Choose a Legal Case
1. Select a Topic:
- Pick an interesting case, such as a landmark Supreme Court decision or a recent significant case.
2. Research the Case:
- Use sources like Oyez, legal databases, and news articles to get an overview.
Step 2: Conduct Preliminary Research
1. Understand the Background:
- Research the historical and social context, the parties involved, and the circumstances leading to the case.
2. Legal Issues:
- Identify the legal questions and constitutional principles at stake.
3. Court Decisions:
- Study the majority, concurring, and dissenting opinions of the court.
Step 3: Develop a Thesis Statement
1. Formulate Your Argument:
- Focus on a specific aspect of the case and present a clear argument.
2. Examples:
- "Brown v. Board of Education was pivotal for the Civil Rights Movement."
- "The dissent in Roe v. Wade highlights ongoing reproductive rights debates."
Step 4: Create an Outline
1. Introduction:
- Introduce the case, its significance, and your thesis.
2. Background:
- Provide a detailed background of the case.
3. Legal Issues:
- Discuss the legal questions addressed.
4. Court's Decision:
- Analyze the court's decision and reasoning.
5. Impact and Analysis:
- Examine the case’s impact and provide your analysis.
6. Conclusion:
- Summarize findings and restate your thesis.
Step 5: Conduct Detailed Research
1.Primary Sources:
- Get the full text of the court’s opinion from legal databases.
2. Secondary Sources:
- Look for scholarly articles, books, and legal commentaries.
3. Citation:
- Track your sources and use proper citation formats.
Step 6: Write Your Pape
1. Drafting:
- Write a first draft based on your outline.
2. Revising:
- Revise for clarity and logical flow, ensuring arguments are well-supported.
3. Editing:
- Check for grammar, punctuation, and correct citations.
Step 7: Finalize Your Paper
1. Peer Review:
- Get feedback from a teacher, mentor, or peer.
2. Final Edits:
- Incorporate feedback and make necessary revisions.
3. Submission:
- Ensure your paper meets guidelines and submit it on time.
Additional Tips
- Time Management: Start early and plan each step.
- Note-Taking:Keep detailed notes to ease writing.
- Critical Thinking:Engage critically with sources and develop your own insights.
By following these steps, you'll be prepared to write a concise and insightful research paper on a legal case. Good luck!
Thank you comment icon Thank you so much! I will put your advice to good use and follow this step process. I truly appreciate your guidance. Riya
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