LL4F9      Half Unit
Legal Research and Writing Skills

This information is for the 2013/14 session.

Teacher responsible

Mr Jacobus Bomhoff NAB 6.29


This course is compulsory on the Master of Laws and Master of Laws (extended part-time study). This course is not available as an outside option.

Course content

This half unit course on Legal Research and Writing has: (i) A taught component focusing on research and writing skills; and (ii) A 10,000 word stand-alone dissertation, to be written in a substantive law area of the student's choice. The two components will be carefully integrated. Over the course of this half unit, students should gain a better understanding of: (a) The nature of research in general; the distinctive features (if any) of legal research and the range of questions and research methodologies to be found within legal scholarship (b) Doing legal research, including research design, resource identification and searching for relevant materials; legal referencing and citation skills. (c) Writing skills, relating to both the process of writing, as well as the end product; presenting findings to different audiences etc. Representative topics include the following, where L = Lecture and S = Seminar delivery: 1. What is research? What are the distinctive features of legal research? [L] 2. Theoretical approaches to legal materials [L + S] 3. Research methodologies in law, including comparative law [L] 4. Resources for legal research (an overview of the library resources and practical, lab-based sessions on effective database searching) [L + S] 5. Developing an argument in writing [L + S] 6. The iterative nature of legal writing (as described by a member of the Law Department illustrating this with versions of one of their own research papers) [L] 7. Identifying good writing (identifying effective legal writing from the MT syllabus and discussions around why the student liked it) [S] 8. Single page poster presentations of the proposed dissertation - effective communication of the key ideas behind the dissertation [S]? 9. An interactive Questions and Answers seminar - divided into subject-specific streams (e.g. international law; commercial law; media law, IT & IP law) [S]


20 hours of seminars in the LT. 2 hours of seminars in the ST.

Formative coursework

The formative coursework will consist of an interactive, week-by-week Moodle form which students will have to complete before the relevant seminar. The tasks on the form will be designed to assist the student in designing their 10,000 word dissertation outline. See Section 3.3 above for further details.

Indicative reading

Booth, Colomb & Williams, The Craft of Research (3rd ed, 2008, Uni of Chicago Press)
Bintliff, 'Context and Legal Research' (2007) Law Library Journal 249
Franklin, 'Theory Saved my Life' (2005) New York City Law Review 599
Osbeck, 'What is "Good Legal Writing" and Why Does it Matter?' U of Michigan Public Law Working Paper No. 252 (23 Sep, 2011).
Khan, 'A Compendium of Legal Writing Sources' (2011) Washburn Law Journal 395.


Dissertation (100%, 10000 words) post-summer term.

Key facts

Department: Law

Total students 2012/13: Unavailable

Average class size 2012/13: Unavailable

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information