can i ask a scatterbrain?

I am still a grad student.  Help me not fail.  How do I write a “review essay” like the ones in Law and Social Inquiry

 So, as I keep repeating because I am ceaselessly insecure, I am not a real social scientist. I am not even a real lawyer. I am in an advanced law degree program with no structure, and so I have latched onto an interdisciplinary law and society program so that I can learn some real social science methodology and integrate it with my “doctrinal” law studies.

 I’m taking two seminars this semester.  So far, I’ve managed to scrape by in my classes, even though I write bad law review articles that are too muddled between social science and legal scholarship, and so I haven’t published anything yet.  Help me publish something.  Hell, help me write a decent paper.  I think I’ve gone too far off to write a proper law review article (heavy on the footnotes, heavy on the doctrinal analysis, short on reality), but I’m definitely nowhere near capable of writing anything that would pass peer review. Thankfully, my people at the student-edited law reviews and journals (of which there are too many to count) have lower standards.

 I think I might have a good shot with a sexual harassment paper I plan on writing, but I want to do something different for the other paper.  The assignment says that I can:

“Write a review essay, such as those that appear in the Annual Review of Law & Social Science, or Law and Social Inquiry.  Unlike book reviews in many journals, LSI reviews typically offer theoretical arguments regarding the book and situate it in a wider scholarly literature.”

So you know that brief roadmap to a brief research statement that Tina wrote?  What is the roadmap to a review essay?  Dudes, I do not even know how to do a real literature review, although I am supposed to this summer. I’d like this review essay to help me out with that, but also be publishable by itself. 

 Can you help me with my homework? Please?

6 thoughts on “can i ask a scatterbrain?”

  1. Can you use the strategy of reading several review essays in that journal on topics you have no interest in, so that you attend more to what the form of the essay looks like?


  2. Jeremy’s advice is good. Use others as models, even labeling the sections in the margins of essay so that you can just plug similar sections in those places.


  3. Jeremy is right. Read up, and you will find the formula that is behind the other reviews.

    After that, here’s my advice: Don’t be afraid to write stuff that sucks.

    That is SO much easier said than done, but it is the only way to get to writing stuff that doesn’t suck.


  4. speaking about writing, I have another question for scatterbrain (maybe it can be posted some other week). Grad students often turn in the first draft of their papers, and only when they start trying to publish do they figure out how much revising goes into a published article. So, the question is, in practice, what strategies do you all use for revising that have worked? I know that there is lots of books out there about writing and revising, but I’d be curious about what you do in practice.


  5. Oh belle — please email me in real life — we can do this — I edited this journal for 6 years. not the review essay part, but comeon — send me the draft — and also — if there is one truth in the entire law and society world — no joking — one truth — it is that howie erlanger is the nicest person in the world (with mary rose tied). He will help you through it. he wants you to suceed.


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