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Pritzker Legal Research Center

Writing a Law Journal Note or Comment

This guide is intended to assist members of law journals at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law with writing and publishing Notes or Comments.

What Is a Preemption Check?

The purpose of a preemption check is to determine whether someone else has already published an article that has a similar thesis and focus as your Note. A thorough preemption check helps you determine whether your Note will contribute new insights on a topic and minimizes the risk that you will need to scramble to find a new topic late in the process. 

To conduct a thorough preemption check, search both indexes and full-text databases as well as law-specific and multidisciplinary databases. Additionally, search for both published and forthcoming articles. 

Preemption Checklist

For a copy of a preemption checklist that you can fill out using Word, please download the document below. Instructions on how to use each of the databases listed on the checklist are below. 

List of Databases to Check:


Search both the Law Reviews & Journals database and the Legal News database on Lexis. 

Law Reviews & Journals: From the Lexis home page, go to Secondary Materials >> Law Reviews & Journals. An "Advanced Search" link is available near the search bar to help you create search strings. 

Legal News: From the Lexis home page, go to Legal News.


Search both the Law Reviews & Journals database and the Legal Resource Index database.

Law Reviews & Journals: From the Westlaw home page, go to Secondary Sources >> Law Reviews & Journals.

  • Contains full-text articles from over 600 law reviews and journals. Scope of coverage varies by publication. For many journals, coverage begins with the 1980s or 1990s.

Legal Resource Index: From the Westlaw home page, go to Secondary Sources >> Legal Resource Index (right sidebar under Tools & Resources). 

  • Contains abstracts from over 700 journals from common-law jurisdictions around the world. Coverage begins with 1980.


HeinOnline's Law Journal Library contains more than 2,400 law and law-related periodicals. Coverage typically begins with the first issue. About 90% of journals are available through the current issue or volume.

To conduct keyword searches, either use the search bar to search across the Law Journal Library or click on "Advanced Search" underneath the search bar at the top of the screen for assistance with formulating your searches and restricting results to specific topics. 

American Law Reports (ALR)

American Law Reports contain in-depth articles (called “annotations”) on narrow legal issues, especially emerging, unsettled, or changing issues and provide background, analysis, and citations to relevant cases, statutes, law review articles, and other sources. American Law Reports are available on both Westlaw and Lexis.

  • Westlaw: From the Westlaw home page, go to Secondary Sources >> American Law Reports. 
  • Lexis: From the Lexis home page, go to Secondary Materials >> American Law Reports. 

Note that both databases include the same content, so you only need to check one of them for American Law Reports. 

Index to Legal Periodicals

The Index to Legal Periodicals & Books indexes articles from over 850 legal journals (beginning with 1981) and 1,400 major law books per year (beginning with 1993). The focus is on publications from the United States, but the database includes some publications from other English-speaking countries. The index does not contain any articles in full text. 

From the homepage, click on the "Advanced Search" link underneath the search bar. Using the advanced search, conduct keyword searches (recommendations for search fields: TX All Text Fields, AB Abstract, and SU Subject).


SSRN is an open-access online database of scholarly research, including working papers and abstracts of works in progress as well as completed works. SSRN includes a Legal Scholarship Network and various other networks in the following subject areas: Applied Sciences, Health Sciences, Humanities, Life Sciences, Physical Sciences, and Social Sciences.

To search across SSRN, click on the "Advanced Search" link next to the search bar. The advanced search link allows you to search across just the title, abstract, and keywords of the articles and papers or broaden the search to include full-text. You can also limit your search to a particular SSRN network. 

BEPress Legal Repository

BEPress Legal Repository hosts institutional repositories for over 80 U.S. and Canadian law schools, as well as many other academic and government institutions. Each linked repository contains scholarship uploaded by that institution, typically focusing on faculty scholarship.

Use the search box on the right side of the screen. The default search is limited to the Legal Repository collection of law-related institutions, but you can use the dropdown box to instead search across “all repositories.” For additional searching options, click on the “Advanced Search” link.

Project Muse

Project MUSE is an online database of peer-reviewed academic journals and electronic books. Includes digital humanities and social science content from over 200 university presses and scholarly societies around the world.

To use Project MUSE, conduct a keyword search using the search bar in the middle of the home page. Narrow your search results using the filters in the left sidebar on the search results page. 


NUsearch is the library catalog for Northwestern University Libraries. All searches conducted on NUsearch will search across books held by campus libraries as well as journal articles, news articles, reports, and other materials available in subscription electronic databases (including JSTOR, Academic Search Complete, etc.). Consider using the Advanced Search feature to run a more targeted search. 

After you run a search, you will likely need to narrow down your results. Use the features in the left sidebar to narrow results by format, creation date, and other filters.