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Critical Race Theory and Critical Race Feminism: Resources for Law Students

This guide provides resources to support students in LAW 358: Race, Ethnicity, Culture and the Law.

Research Question

Developing a Research Question

1. Pick an interesting topic

2. Do preliminary research:

  • what research is already published in the area?
  • what questions are being raised in the research?
  • where are the gaps?

3. Consider your audience:

  • Who are they? 
  • Is the question of interest to them?

4. Start asking questions:

  • Open ended how and why questions to narrow the focus

5. Evaluate your question

  •  Is it clear?:  Is it understandable and will be able to provide direction to the researcher?
  • Is it focused?: Is the question narrow enough to be answered in the paper?
  • Is it complex?: Does it go beyond a simple "yes" or "no" question to require research and analysis?

Adapted From "How to Write a Research Question?" by George Mason University



What is a literature review?

You can find many help videos on how to do a literature review available through youtube.  This one by North Carolina State University is particularly good.  

Literature Review:  "A comprehensive survey of the works published in a particular field of study or line of research, usually over a specific period of time, in the form of an in-depth, criticalbibliographic essay or annotated list in which attention is drawn to the most significant works."  (The Online Dictionary for Library and Information Science)

Literature Search:  "An exhaustive search for published information on a subject conducted systematically using all available bibliographic finding tools, aimed at locating as much existing material on the topic as possible, an important initial step in any serious research project."  (The Online Dictionary for Library and Information Science)

Systematic Review:  "A literature review focused on a specific research question, which uses explicit methods to minimize bias in the identification, appraisal, selection, and synthesis of all the high-quality evidence pertinent to the question. Systematic reviews of randomized controlled trials are so important to evidence-based medicine that an understanding of them is mandatory for professionals involved in biomedical research and health care delivery. Although many biomedical and healthcare journals publish systematic reviews, one of the best-known sources is The Cochrane Collaboration, a group of over 15,000 volunteer specialists who systematically review randomized trials of the effects of treatments and other research."  (The Online Dictionary for Library and Information Science)

Evaluating Sources


It is important to evaluate the information you search and find. One way to evaluate your resources is to use a reliable test like the CRAAP test, that quickly allows to answer a few questions.

Currency: The timeliness of the information

  • When was the information published or posted?
  • Has the information been revised or updated?
  • Does your topic require current information, or will older sources work as well?
  • Are the links functional?

Relevance:The importance of the information for your needs

  • Does the information relate to your topic or answer your question?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Is the information at an appropriate level (i.e. not too elementary or advanced for your needs)?
  • Have you looked at a variety of sources before determining this is one you will use?
  • Would you be comfortable citing this source in your research paper?

Authority: The source of the information.

  • Who is the author/publisher/source/sponsor?
  • What are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations?
  • Is the author qualified to write on the topic?
  • Is there contact information, such as a publisher or email address?
  • Does the URL reveal anything about the author or source, examples: .com .edu .gov .org .net

Accuracy: The reliability, truthfulness and correctness of the content.

  • Where does the information come from?
  • Is the information supported by evidence?
  • Has the information been reviewed or refereed?
  • Can you verify any of the information in another source or from personal knowledge?
  • Does the language or tone seem unbiased and free of emotion?
  • Are there spelling, grammar or typographical errors?

Purpose:The reason the information exists

  • What is the purpose of the information? Is it to inform, teach, sell, entertain or persuade?
  • Do the authors/sponsors make their intentions or purpose clear?
  • Is the information fact, opinion or propaganda?
  • Does the point of view appear objective and impartial?
  • Are there political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional or personal biases?

Taken from: the CRAAP, developed by CSU Chico. 

Writing Scholarly Papers

The following books provide information on scholarly writing for law students as well as resources for approaching a paper from the critical race theory perspective..  As explained by Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic in Critical Race Theory, an Introduction (1997), Critical Race Theory "questions the very foundations of the liberal order, including equality theory, legal reasoning, Enlightenment rationalism, and neutral principles of constitutional law."

What is plagiarism?

Plagiarism: "The action or practice of taking someone else's work, idea, etc., and passing it off as one's own; literary theft. (Oxford English Dictionary online, 2006)

  • Give credit when you use other people's content in your academic work.
  • Your assignments and exams must be your own original work, not someone else's.

Avoiding Plagiarism:
1. Take careful, organized notes

  • Clearly mark passages you copy word-for-word, those you paraphrase and those that are you own thoughts.

2. Know how and when to cite. Though citation rules vary for different style guides, the basic principles remain the same:

  • Use quote marks when using someone's exact phrasing, even if it's only a word or two, and cite it.
  • Paraphrase by putting a passage into your own words, making sure you change the sentence structure and other distinctions of the original, without misrepresenting its meaning
  • Compare your paraphrase to the source and check that you haven't accidentally kept significant words or phrases.
  • If an author has captured a concept perfectly, quote it, or paraphrase most of it but put quote marks around the few words that could not be said any other way.
  • Always cite paraphrases! You may not be using someone else's words, but you are using their ideas.

3. Printable handout

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This work by The University of Victoria Libraries is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License unless otherwise indicated when material has been used from other sources.