Brainstorming: Choosing a Topic, Formulating a Thesis

If you are preparing to write a paper for a course, think about what initially motivated you to enroll in the course. Is there a topic with which you already are familiar that you hope to explore in more depth? Is there a topic covered on the syllabus that caught your attention? Is the professor an expert in a particular sub-field who might be able to suggest open areas of inquiry that are suitable for your writing project? Has the professor identified (and recommended) specific areas that remain open for investigation?


If you are working while attending law school, does your place of employment confront any legal issues that you could analyze? Can you make use of the expertise you already developed in the field to dive deeper into an issue that might not be as accessible to a layperson? Can your employer offer any guidance regarding how your research could be useful in your workplace?


What was your undergraduate major area of study? Can you find a topic at the intersection of your undergraduate studies and legal studies that captures your interest? Did you conduct substantial research on any topic during college or while pursuing another graduate degree? Can you use your understanding of this area (key vocabulary, reliable resources, etc.) as a launching point for your next writing project?


If your topic suffers from a dearth of references, perhaps because the legal issue is so new, can you think of an analogous topic that has been researched to a greater extent? Can you offer insight by drawing this analogy and suggesting that scholars approach the new development in a manner similar to that which already has been taken to the analogous topic?


Your topic must be stated narrowly but can remain neutral and descriptive; the topic serves as a label for the legal area that you intend to address in your writing project. In contrast, your thesis presents your position in a prescriptive (“should”) statement: [Someone] should [do something] about [some problem] because […].