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Research Canons

Books and articles that are essential to a new academic in various areas of legal inquiry as suggested by contributors to PrawfsBlawg.


Prawfsblawg is pleased to announce the "Research Canons" project.  The purpose of this project is to get input from you, our readers, about the most important works of scholarship in the various areas of legal inquiry.

Unlike other disciplines, most law academics do not have an advanced degree in "law."  For students pursuing a Ph.D in areas such as economics, history, or social psychology, they must pass comprehensive exams showing that they have a broad knowledge of the most important works in the field.  It is only after comps that students go on to complete their specialized dissertation research.

Legal academia assumes that entry-level candidates and new scholars have done the background research necessary for their area of expertise.  But it is left to the individual to get this knowledge.  Certainly, the J.D. provides a baseline, and mentors are helpful in providing further direction.  But there is nothing akin to comps that sets forth a comprehensive listing for new folks to follow.  Many of us have heard the question, in the AALS interview, in the job talk, or as a new scholar presenting a paper: "Well, of course, you have read the work of Prof. X in this area, right?"  Failure to respond appropriately to this question may raise eyebrows and cast doubt on the scholar's research. The Research Canons project is intended to fill this gap.

One note: research canons may call to mind older, classic works that provide the foundation for today's research.  However, new canons are also extremely useful -- these are the current works that are driving the debate in the field.  In fact, new canons may be more useful to new academics, since they are less likely to have seen these in law school. 

Please send any additions or comments to Matt Bodie. 

Additional Sources of Commonly Cited Works

  1. Fred R. Shapiro, The Most-Cited Legal Books Published Since 1978, 29 J. Legal Stud. 397 (2000). 
  2. Fred R. Shapiro, The Most Cited Legal Scholars, 29 J. Legal Stud. 409 (2000).
  3. Fred R. Shapiro & Michelle Pearse, The Most-Cited Law Review Articles of All Time, 110 Mich. L. Rev. 1483 (2012).