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Module

LAW8090 : Legal Research Skills and Methods

  • Offered for Year: 2021/22
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Ilke Turkmendag
  • Owning School: Newcastle Law School
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semesters
Semester 1 Credit Value: 10
ECTS Credits: 5.0

Aims

Some of the students who start their LLM at the Law School have no degree in law or did not write up a dissertation as a part of their undergraduate degree. This module complements the actual dissertation writing component of all postgraduate taught degree programmes where a dissertation focusing on law or regulation will be required. In such a dissertation, students are expected to acquire knowledge on a specialised topic, possibly outside of the scope of the taught modules on the degrees, and are expected to carry out an advanced piece of independent legal research. This module prepares students for this task by introducing the students to a variety of legal-specific research skills, and assisting the students in arriving at an appropriate dissertation topic and methodology.

Student aims: to acquire the relevant research and study skills to successfully complete their postgraduate taught degree and particularly the dissertation requirement of their degrees.

Outline Of Syllabus

Training on essay writing and assessment, legal writing and reasoning, and sources/referencing and plagiarism; choosing a dissertation topic, managing a dissertation project, research methodologies, conducting a literature review, ethics and legal research.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Structured Guided LearningLecture materials41:004:00Lecture material including structured learning activities
Structured Guided LearningLecture materials10:300:30Lecture material including structured learning activities
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion191:0019:00Formative Assessment preparation.
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion601:0060:00Assessment preparation
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading13:303:30Library sessions for independent research skill development (optional)
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading40:151:00MCQs for skill development (library skills)
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching81:008:00In person lectures on substantive class content (FLEX - could be moved online)
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops11:001:00In person poster presentation with feedback )FLEX - can move online)
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDrop-in/surgery31:003:00Feedback session for formative assessment, summative assessment feedforward.
Total100:00
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

The module will be taught mostly through in person interactive small group teaching. The sessions at the start of the year are there to provide core information about the module, degree, and dissertation process to the students, and these are best delivered in a ‘lecture’. However, these are not traditional lectures: they are more akin to small group teaching. They all include interactive components that require the students to engage in practical exercises and discuss the outcomes of those exercises with each other and the lecturer.

As the module progresses students will be benefitting from independent learning activities such as structured guided learning (reading lecture material and visiting module’s Canvas pages for library skills training which is an important component of the module) and guided independent study to learn and practice research skills. Some of the skill training required will be covered by LAW 8000 through PiP.

There is one-hour workshop held where groups of students present their dissertation titles to a staff member and receive feedback.

The other 3 hours of drop-in reflect on the fact that students may have questions about formulating their dissertation proposals that cannot be catered to in group teaching. Drop-in time will thus enable students to have an opportunity to discuss their research proposals outside of the group context, with more confidentiality and more focus on their specific topical questions.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Research proposal1M803000 words dissertation proposal including a brief literature review
Poster1M20300 word abstract: The students will submit their dissertation title, methodology and main research questions
Formative Assessments
Description Semester When Set Comment
Essay1MOptional formative assessment to test essay writing skills
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

Formative assessment: In the beginning of the semester the students will be invited to write an essay using given sources. This is a formative assessment to test the students’ existing writing and citation skills and enable them to receive feedback on how to improve their writing skills.

Summative assessments: The low stakes poster abstract and 3000 word essay (dissertation proposal including a brief literature review) were chosen in specific response to the legal research skills that we expect students to be able to demonstrate during the course.

In November, the students will submit a 300 word poster abstract (the dissertation title, research questions and methods) to ensure that in preparing their presentation they are already working towards a clearly structured research questions and research design. These are necessary because unless the dissertation topic is feasible the student should not start working on the next assessment. A feedback will follow from those marking the posters on how the research proposal can be improved.

After having received feedback on the posters, the student will have approximately 2 months to submit their final dissertation proposal, including a brief literature review.

A strong proposal and a brief literature review will enable students to produce clear, coherent, and feasible research project.

All the assessment on the course was specifically set as outlined to ensure that students start on their dissertation writing with as much preparation as possible. le.

Reading Lists

Timetable