It is 3 a .m. and you are up, prepping for class. Again. You have reading to do for Torts, for Contracts, and for Civil Procedure, and if you fall behind even one day, you will be spending hours late at night for the next few days trying to catch up. Or, worse, you will be unprepared and that will be the day your professor will call on you. And to add to your stress, you have a research project for your legal writing class due in less than two days, and you have not even started. Your professor told you to draft a research plan before you set foot in the library or signed onto your legal research database. But with so much going on in your other classes- not to mention how very strung-out you feel from the late nights and intense workload of a first-year law student- you do not see why you should spend the time on a research plan when that research plan will not be turned in, and you will not even be graded on it.
So you decide to skip the research plan and just dive in. You get results. But there seem to be a lot of them, and they don't seem to be what you want. You try again, but you still aren't finding what you are looking for. This research project seems overwhelming now, and the clock is ticking. Over the next couple of days, you find yourself having to put off rea ding for your other classes. Your level of panic starts rising. Why is this taking so long? Why can't you find what you're looking for? Are you just not cut out for law school? Maybe you don't really want to do this after all.
Ultimately, you turn in your research project after burning the midnight oil several nights in a row. You are not confident in your results, and you are pretty sure you hate your life- and law school. You spend the next few days catching up with your reading for your other classes, and soon enough, it's time to do the next research project, which, of course, is a more complex one.
So, how did skipping the research plan on that last assignment work out for you? Not so great, right? Since you want to sleep again sometime, you need to change your strategy for the next assignment. You need a good research plan.
While it seems tempting to skip a research plan you do not have to turn in, you will save yourself a lot of time and effort and agony if you take the time to plan your research before you jump in, especially if you have a complex issue to research (and you will, eventually, have to research complex issues). A research plan can help you:
- Keep your research focused and organized
- Save time
- Prevent duplication of effort
- Prevent frustration
- Save money
This chapter will discuss these benefits of a good research plan, explain why a research plan saves you time, and help you formulate a research plan that can help you get through any research project without tearing your hair out.
Maureen Moran, Research Strategies, in Global Lawyering Skills (Mary-Beth Moylan & Stephanie J. Thompson, eds. 2013).