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J.D. Research Requirement

All Vanderbilt law students are required to complete a substantial research paper to obtain the J.D. degree. Most students will satisfy this requirement by enrolling in and completing a course designated as a 3-credit seminar.

If you have a special reason to pursue a topic outside the scope of the seminars offered during your tenure at Vanderbilt, you may also satisfy the requirement by completing a supervised research project.

Whether you write your paper for a seminar or as the culmination of a supervised research project, it must meet the following requirements:

  • Present a fair, accurate description of the factual setting that gives rise to the issue you choose to address
  • Provide an adequate explanation of existing law and doctrine, and develop a normative thesis that analyzes current doctrine
  • Presents a reasoned view of how policy should respond to the presented issue
  • Be well-researched with all sources cited properly in Blue Book form or similar convention
  • Make appropriate use of relevant literature, including both primary sources and secondary literature.

Rigid rules about the length of the papers are not warranted, but substantial research papers will normally be at least 30 to 40 pages in length.

Ask the faculty member teaching your seminar or directing your significant research project about available competitions, awards and prizes. Students may enter their research papers in competitions at the law school as well as national competitions that offer recognition and/or a financial award for achievement. If your chosen area of research is a subject areas for which a prize is awarded, your planning for the year ahead should include entering the competition. The deadline for papers to be considered for awards and prizes is typically the last day of spring semester classes.