INSTRUCTIONS FOR WRITING A LEGAL RESEARCH PAPER This assignment requires you to (a) find 6 court opinions reflecting the manner in which different courts have addressed a legal issue of your choice that is relevant to the subject matter of the course, and (b) to write an essay describing those cases, including a conclusion that summarizes the point(s) made in each case. 1. The issue must be relevant to the course. Thus, a paper in CJC 322 (Criminal Law) should be about an aspect of some crime or defense. 2. The issue must be a very narrow one. For example, finding six murder or six self-defense cases to describe is too broad of a topic. Finding six cases on the issue of what is premeditation in homicide, or what constitutes asportation in kidnapping are sufficiently narrow. 3. The cases found and described should be from one jurisdiction, i.e., federal, Illinois, or some other state. This is because the laws for each jurisdiction are different. A student could, however, elect to present cases from several jurisdictions to describe how they are all treating the same issue, in which cases they should be from six different jurisdictions. 4. You are basically looking for cases that illustrate how courts treat the same issue, under different factual circumstances. I am not asking for a definitive statement on what the law is to date; older cases are as valid as newer cases. 5. Cases can be found through the LEXIS-NEXUS data bases under the “Library Links” drop-down menu on the LUC library’s home page. At the “LEXIS-NEXUS home page, click “Browse” at the top of the page. Then select “Cases” from the list of databases. After clicking on “Cases,” you will see a drop-down menu about the databases. Each reflects a later page with different jurisdictions’ databases. For example, if you want to see federal cases, you will select from the drop-down menu the page that begins with E. There, you will be able to scroll through many different databases, including “Federal Cases Combined,” which is the one I recommend. 6. You will look for six cases that interest you, are relevant (i.e., directly on point) to your legal issue, and have a long enough discussion of the issue that it is worthwhile to discuss the case. Some “hits” will be from cases that only mention the subject tangentially, so those you can skip. 7. You should read each case in full, but focus on the discussion of your issue. That is the only issue that you will refer to in each case. Do not mention other issues discussed in each opinion. Then, brief each of the six cases. The briefs will be the outlines to which you will refer when writing your paper. Do not put the briefs into your paper. 8. The paper will contain a general introduction to the issue researched, indicating what you are doing in the paper, i.e., stating that you will be discussing cases from a specific jurisdiction (state or federal) and levels of court (appellate, supreme) which discuss the issue of X; and stating that you will be presenting the facts, issue, holding, and reasoning of each case presented. 9. After the introduction, you can organize the paper into sections with subtitles, such as “Cases Where Self-defense was Found,” and “Cases Where Self-defense was Not Found”; or “Cases Where Premeditation was Found,” and “Cases Where Premeditation was Not Found.” You should try to find three cases illustrating one category, and three illustrating another, if possible. But this manner of organization is only recommended, not required. 10. Then, using your brief as an outline, write your essay in the order of the brief elements: facts, issue, holding, reasoning, and conclusion, for each case. Use appropriate transition language between cases, and sections of the paper. 11. Finally, summarize the main point or holding from each case in the conclusion. 12. This is a descriptive paper, and not one of advocacy, so personal commentary is unnecessary. 13. If done well, this paper can be a good illustration of your written work that can be submitted along with a law school or graduate school application.

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