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Research Assistant: Working with Faculty

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On Demand Reference Assistance
Monday-Friday: 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Please feel free to call or email us (below) for assistance. If you have a larger research question, please contact us to set up an in-person or Zoom appointment.

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Tips for Working as a Faculty Research Assistant

Faculty research projects can take a variety of forms:

  • Literature reviews and preemption checks
  • Researching discrete legal and non-legal topics
  • Locating support for specific arguments
  • Updating sources
  • Ensuring legal citations are in Bluebook format

An initial meeting is essential to understanding the scope of the research project:

  • What type of product does your faculty member want?
    • A formal memo?
    • An email with bullet points?
    • A binder of documents?
    • Is there a sample of the preferred work product?
  • What should your citations look like?
    • Footnotes?
    • In-line citations?
    • Strict Bluebook?
  • What is your deadline? If there is no firm deadline, how often should you check in?
  • Are there any starting points your faculty member can suggest?
    • Key authors?
    • Key sources or databases?
    • Which jurisdictions are of interest?
    • Does the project require cross-disciplinary research? If so, in which disciplines?
    • Is there previous work by another RA?
  • What is the best form of communication?
    • Email/phone/in-person meetings?
    • How often should you check in?
    • Priorities? If there are multiple projects or multiple parts of a project, in what order should they be completed?
  • Share what you are hoping to get out of your time working with the faculty member. Is this an area in which you hope to practice? Are you looking to have a writing opportunity?

Send a confirming email after each meeting during which you received new instructions. This will ensure that you understand the instructions and are ready to move forward.

Avoid plagiarism! Never cut and paste anything from a source without putting quotation marks around it and adding a citation.  Even paraphrased passages taken from someone else’s writing, MUST have a citation. 

Track your research. Ask your faculty member how they would like you to keep track of your research. Use the sample research log below if they do not have a preference:


Search String

Results and Comments


economic & mobility & inequality


Westlaw: Law Reviews

(perception perceive belief believe) /p ("economic mobility" "social mobility")


Google Scholar

perceptions of economic mobility



Economic mobility

Found think tank “Economic Mobility Project” with reports.

Identify your research! Always include your name, the date, and the name of the project or topic on your documents. You can include it in a header or footer or add a To/From/Date/Re: block at the start of your document.

Make an appointment with a reference librarian, before you start researching and anytime you run into a roadblock.  Librarians can help you come up with a research plan (which databases to use, which search terms to use, how to navigate too many results, too few results, etc.).  Contact information is on the left of this page.