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The University of Southampton

LAWS3052 Legal Research and Writing

Module Overview

The Legal Research and Writing course is a compulsory final year unit. It is examined through a 10,000 word dissertation on a topic of your choice. The module builds on the research skills you have developed during your degree programme and provides you with a vehicle to evidence to employers your legal and transferable skills. In the first semester there will be lectures on approaches to legal research and writing, advice on research tools, and guidance on how to approach formulating a research proposal. There will also be individual supervision on your dissertation.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • the relevant primary and secondary legal sources for your chosen topic/field (including assessing the strengths and weaknesses of different types of legal research);
  • a demonstrable understanding of the area in question (c/f summary of the marking criteria provided to students in the module handbook);
  • the issues raised within your chosen field, the possibilities of/for resolution, and their significance.
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • develop a clear and coherent framework of analysis;
  • sustain a clear and persuasive argument, showing understanding, critical awareness, independent thought and appropriate use of the concepts and sources;
  • formulate original ideas (i.e. ideas not simply reliant on those already available in the literature or from teaching staff);
  • communicate effectively your views in writing.
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • plan and carry out thorough research in your chosen area of law;
  • identify, locate and evaluate primary and secondary source material;
  • develop, explore, refine and justify your personal views on a research problem;
  • utilise written communication;
  • self-manage (e.g. time management);
  • critically analyse, problem analysis and problem solving;
  • demonstrate capacity for independent learning.


The module comprises a combination of a taught element (delivered through lectures), students' individual research and one-to-one supervision meetings with an academic member of staff.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching will be by way of a series of lectures and supervision by a member of academic staff. An introductory lecture is given during the second year, to outline the module and provide guidance on selecting an appropriate research question. A series of lectures is given during the third/fourth year on: developing a research proposal; research techniques; writing techniques and referencing. You will be allocated a supervisor and have a 'budget' of 1.5 hours supervision for guidance on research and writing process(es). Handouts and PowerPoint presentations will be placed on Blackboard, for all stages of the dissertation research and writing process. The Law Librarian also offers 'drop-in' sessions for Legal Research and Writing, where you can have assistance with specific research queries. Lectures will: - develop the structure of the module, and provide you with guidance on choosing a topic at the outset; - introduce you to the research available research resources - explain the marking criteria and provide guidance on meeting the higher class marks provide guidance on structuring and writing your dissertation Preparation for your supervision meetings, researching and writing up will develop: - your ability to identify the relevant primary and secondary legal sources pertinent to your chosen topic, and to manage a diverse range of source material; - your ability to illustrate your knowledge of this topic, be it in relation to cases/statutes/wider legal materials/theoretical analyses, and to understand, assess and reflect on the issues raised therein; - your ability to discuss these issues with your supervisor; - through discussion with a supervisor, and in the process of writing up a 10,000 word dissertation, your ability to formulate clear, reasoned, structured and persuasive arguments; showing understanding, critical awareness, independent thought and appropriate use of the relevant concepts and sources; - your time management and capacity for independent learning.

Completion of assessment task110
Wider reading or practice100
Preparation for scheduled sessions20
Follow-up work60
Total study time300

Resources & Reading list

Module Resources. The requisite resources are the relevant textbooks, statute books, and electronic resources including Blackboard; and wider materials provided by the School and Library, especially LexisNexis, Westlaw and Justis. Due to the nature of this module there is no set text.



Diligence and Initiative


MethodPercentage contribution
Diligence and Initiative  (10000 words) 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Diligence and Initiative  (10000 words) 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Diligence and Initiative  (10000 words) 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External


Costs associated with this module

Students are responsible for meeting the cost of essential textbooks, and of producing such essays, assignments, laboratory reports and dissertations as are required to fulfil the academic requirements for each programme of study.

In addition to this, students registered for this module typically also have to pay for:

Printing and Photocopying Costs

There will be additional costs for printing and binding your dissertation.


Recommended texts for this module may be available in limited supply in the University Library and students may wish to purchase the mandatory/additional reading text as appropriate.

Please also ensure you read the section on additional costs in the University’s Fees, Charges and Expenses Regulations in the University Calendar available at

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