LAW 7187 - Advanced Legal Research and Writing

North Terrace Campus - Semester 2 - 2021

This course introduces students to advanced law-specific research design processes, including (but not limited to): the development of researchable questions, appropriate research methodologies, critical review of legal scholarship and peer review processes as well as communication of research in an academic format. This course is assessed through the development, and written and oral presentation of, a formal research proposal. Students will also be assessed on their ability to critically evaluate the work of others.

  • General Course Information
    Course Details
    Course Code LAW 7187
    Course Advanced Legal Research and Writing
    Coordinating Unit Adelaide Law School
    Term Semester 2
    Level Postgraduate Coursework
    Location/s North Terrace Campus
    Units 3
    Contact Up to 36 hours
    Available for Study Abroad and Exchange
    Incompatible LAW 6005
    Course Description This course introduces students to advanced law-specific research design processes, including (but not limited to): the development of researchable questions, appropriate research methodologies, critical review of legal scholarship and peer review processes as well as communication of research in an academic format. This course is assessed through the development, and written and oral presentation of, a formal research proposal. Students will also be assessed on their ability to critically evaluate the work of others.
    Course Staff

    Course Coordinator: Associate Professor Peter Burdon

    Phone: 83135221
    Building: Ligertwood Building, floor 3
    Room: 3 05
    Course Timetable

    The full timetable of all activities for this course can be accessed from Course Planner.

    Please note that all classes will be two hours in duration (9am-11am).
  • Learning Outcomes
    Course Learning Outcomes
    On successful completion of this course, students will be able to:
    1. Analyse the principles of their chosen thesis topic in law, undertake legal research at an advanced level with primary and secondary materials, and evaluate complex legal information.
    2. Apply advanced and integrated knowledge of the law to complex issues, and critically evaluate the operation of the law from theoretical and practical perspectives.
    3. Structure and sustain coherent extended written arguments for a sophisticated legal audience, orally communicate complex legal concepts effectively, and critique advanced legal research from substantive and structural perspectives.
    4. Conduct and analyse legal research at an advanced level, write extended legal arguments effectively and persuasively.
    5. Analyse the impact of law from policy perspectives, and in the context of social and cultural diversity, and appreciate the value of interdisciplinary approaches.
    6. Reflect on their abilities to undertake individual work effectively.
    University Graduate Attributes

    This course will provide students with an opportunity to develop the Graduate Attribute(s) specified below:

    University Graduate Attribute Course Learning Outcome(s)
    Deep discipline knowledge
    • informed and infused by cutting edge research, scaffolded throughout their program of studies
    • acquired from personal interaction with research active educators, from year 1
    • accredited or validated against national or international standards (for relevant programs)
    Critical thinking and problem solving
    • steeped in research methods and rigor
    • based on empirical evidence and the scientific approach to knowledge development
    • demonstrated through appropriate and relevant assessment
    1-3, 5
    Teamwork and communication skills
    • developed from, with, and via the SGDE
    • honed through assessment and practice throughout the program of studies
    • encouraged and valued in all aspects of learning
    1, 3
    Career and leadership readiness
    • technology savvy
    • professional and, where relevant, fully accredited
    • forward thinking and well informed
    • tested and validated by work based experiences
    Intercultural and ethical competency
    • adept at operating in other cultures
    • comfortable with different nationalities and social contexts
    • able to determine and contribute to desirable social outcomes
    • demonstrated by study abroad or with an understanding of indigenous knowledges
    2, 5
    Self-awareness and emotional intelligence
    • a capacity for self-reflection and a willingness to engage in self-appraisal
    • open to objective and constructive feedback from supervisors and peers
    • able to negotiate difficult social situations, defuse conflict and engage positively in purposeful debate
  • Learning Resources
    Required Resources
    There is no required text on this topic.

    A booklet of 40 activities, which will also give important references, will be supplied.
    Several works on research and writing will be recommended.
    Recommended Resources
    Recommended books will be discussed in the first class.
    Online Learning
    MyUni will be used to post announcements, post additional lecture materials (including slides, and where available, audio recordings of lectures) and announce assignment tasks. It will also contain electronic copies of the Course Outline, Lecture and Seminar Guides, and Course Materials. Students are expected to check MyUni regularly to keep up to date with these materials and additional learning resources throughout the course.
  • Learning & Teaching Activities
    Learning & Teaching Modes
    Learning and Teaching Activities amounting to 24 hours (across lecture, seminar and structured learning activity formats) will be offered to students in this course.

    The information below is provided as a guide to assist students in engaging appropriately with the course requirements.

    The University expects full-time students (i.e. those taking 12 units per semester) to devote a total of 48 hours per week to their studies. This means that you are expected to commit approximately 9 hours of private study in addition to your regular classes.
    Learning Activities Summary
    Week 1 Our first session will provide an introduction to the course and guidance on how things will run. We will also begin by building individual profiles of yourself as a reader, writer and communicator.
    Week 2 Thinking about methodology

    It was T.S. Eliot that once noted (admittedly in the context of literary criticism) that there is ‘no method except to be very intelligent’ (Sacred Wood, 1921). That is a view that I suspect many legal scholars hold. There is a fear that methodology courses, and a slavish focus on methodology, work against intelligent thinking. In this session the unappealing nature of methodology courses is confronted head on and the intellectual significance of methodology is considered. Three different issues are covered. First, a map of different types of legal methodology is given. Second, different understandings of scholarly expertise are examined. Finally, the practical significance of methodology to great legal scholarship is considered.
    Week 3 Exploring the field: finding, keeping and writing about the literature in your field

    In this session we will consider research questions; purposes of reviewing the literature; note taking, storing, sorting and planning; and doing literature searches. 
    Week 4 Different approaches to scholarship: Doctrine, socio-legal and more

    The primary aim of the seminar is to consider alternative ways of approaching scholarship such as a doctrinal approach, socio-legal, or theoretical approach etc. We will also reflect on the effect that approach might have on publication, career opportunities, and research funding possibilities in the light of various research ‘buzz words’: impact, knowledge exchange, and dissemination.
    Week 5 Critique

    This session focuses on the nature and practice of critique. It alsodistinguishes critique from trashing and provides instruction on best practice.
    Week 6 Theory and the non-theorist

    Legal theorists study legal theory (i.e. jurisprudence, or the philosophy of law) because they find it intrinsically interesting and because they aspire to make some progress on theoretical problems about law. But what about everyone else? If one is doing doctrinal, or historical, or empirical research in law?
    Week 7 Identifying and Avoiding Confirmation Bias

    Confirmation bias is the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information that confirms or supports one's prior personal beliefs or values. It is something that we all do and need to actively combat as researchers.
    Week 8 Interdisciplinary Research

    Interdisciplinarity is a reality and an aspiration of much legal scholarship. As so much scholarship is about thinking about the interrelationship between law and real world problems legal scholars are engaging with many other disciplines in a range of complex ways. Despite this being the case there is little analysis within legal scholarship about what it means to be interdisciplinary. This is particularly problematic when interdisciplinary research can result in poor scholarship due it veering into ‘dilettantism’ (Feldman) or simple polemic. In this seminar we first begin at looking at the different ways to conceptualise disciplines (ways of thinking, vocabularies, sociological constructs etc.) and interdisciplinarity. Second, five different types of interdisciplinary legal scholarship are identified. Finally, a series of dos and don’ts for this type of scholarship are outlined.
    Week 9 Rules of Good Writing (and of Writing a Good Thesis)

    Our final unit on legal writing begins with a focus on George Orwell's essay, "Politics and the English Language". After that we consider canonical essays on good legal writing.
    Week 10 Finding out What The Style Guides Advise

    This session focuses on legal style guides such as the AGLC and other elements of legal style. We also consider Steven Pinker's argument that having too much knowledge on a subject can interfere with style.
    Week 11 Being Sensitive to Disciplinary Conventions

    This week we focus on research and writing conventions in law and contrast them with other disciplines such as the social sciences. We also use this week to unpack in more detail the relationship between legal method and multi-disciplinary scholarship
    Week 12 The Politics of Legal Writing

    The course will finish with an examination of the political economy of university research and its future.

    *Please note that these learning activities are subject to change. For the latest information please consult Myuni.
  • Assessment

    The University's policy on Assessment for Coursework Programs is based on the following four principles:

    1. Assessment must encourage and reinforce learning.
    2. Assessment must enable robust and fair judgements about student performance.
    3. Assessment practices must be fair and equitable to students and give them the opportunity to demonstrate what they have learned.
    4. Assessment must maintain academic standards.

    Assessment Summary
    Assessment Task Task Type Weighting Word count/ time
    Due Learning Outcomes
    Critical analysis of a piece of writing Individual 55% 3,000 words Friday of Week 6, 2pm 1, 2, 3, 6
    Oral presentation of research proposal Individual 20% N/A Students will be advised of the timetable for presentations of their research proposals in the first weeks of the course. 3, 4, 5
    Written research proposal Individual 25% 2,000 words Friday of Week 12, 2pm 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
    Total 100%
    Assessment Detail

    Critical Analysis of a Piece of Writing Throughout the semester, students will be asked to analyse critically the writing of others, especially landmark articles.  For this assessment, an article of influence will be set for comment. Students will be asked to explain the main argument, whether they find it persuasive and why, what are its strengths and weaknesses, and so on.

    Students may be permitted on application to revise and re-submit their critical analysis within two weeks of receipt of their initial grade if that grade is 60% or more.

    Oral presentation of research proposal
    There will be ongoing or rolling presentations of the proposal to class members (it will evolve over the course of the semester), and all students are expected to provide constructive comments to other students. There is then a final presentation of the proposal to the class. (This is a very interesting exercise. Your ideas will grow and develop over time.)

    Written research proposal
    This is the final written version of the proposal which will be informed by the former presentations to class. The assessment of the written research proposal will take into account the development of the proposal.


    Standard Adelaide Law School submission requirements apply. Specific information will be provided in the assessment instructions for each item of assessment.

    Course Grading

    Grades for your performance in this course will be awarded in accordance with the following scheme:

    M10 (Coursework Mark Scheme)
    Grade Mark Description
    FNS   Fail No Submission
    F 1-49 Fail
    P 50-64 Pass
    C 65-74 Credit
    D 75-84 Distinction
    HD 85-100 High Distinction
    CN   Continuing
    NFE   No Formal Examination
    RP   Result Pending

    Further details of the grades/results can be obtained from Examinations.

    Grade Descriptors are available which provide a general guide to the standard of work that is expected at each grade level. More information at Assessment for Coursework Programs.

    Final results for this course will be made available through Access Adelaide.

    Finality of Assessment Grades

    Students are advised that Course Coordinators will not enter into negotiations of any kind with any student regarding changes to their grades. It is irrelevant, in any given circumstance, that only a minimal number of additional marks are required to inflate a student’s grade for any individual assessment item or course as a whole. Pursuant to the University’s Assessment for Coursework Programs Policyand the Adelaide Law School Assessment Policies and Procedures, grades may only be varied through the appropriate channels for academic review (such as an official re-mark).

    In accordance with the University’s Assessment for Coursework Programs Policy, course coordinators ‘ensure that appropriate marking guidelines and cross-marking moderation processes across markers are in place’ in each course. Procedures adopted by Adelaide Law School to ensure consistency of marking in courses with multiple markers include:
    • assurance of the qualifications of markers, and their knowledge of the content covered in each course;
    • detailed marking guidelines and assessment rubrics to assist in the marking of items of assessment;
    • sharing of example marked assessments at various grade bands across markers;
    • reviewing of selected marked assessments from each marker by the course coordinator;
    • comparison of the marks and their distribution across markers;
    • automatic double-marking of all interim assessment receiving a fail grade, and of final assessments where a student’s overall result is a fail grade;
    • the availability of re-marking of assessments in accordance with Adelaide Law School’s Assessment Policies and Procedures.

    Approval of Results by Board of Examiners
    Students are reminded that all assessment results are subject to approval (and possible moderation/change) by the Law School’s Board of Examiners. Assessment results at the University are not scaled. Under the Assessment for Coursework Programs Policy, students are assessed ‘by reference to their performance against pre-determined criteria and standards … and not by ranking against the performance of the student cohort in the course’. However, under that same policy, the Board of Examiners (as the relevant Assessment Review Committee for courses at Adelaide Law School) is required to ‘ensure comparability of standards and consistency’ in assessment. On occasions, the Board of Examiners will form the view that some moderation is required to ensure the comparability of standards and consistency across courses and years, and accordingly provide fairness to all law students. All assessment results are therefore subject to approval (and possible change) until confirmed by the Board of Examiners and posted on Access Adelaide at the end of each semester.
  • Student Feedback

    The University places a high priority on approaches to learning and teaching that enhance the student experience. Feedback is sought from students in a variety of ways including on-going engagement with staff, the use of online discussion boards and the use of Student Experience of Learning and Teaching (SELT) surveys as well as GOS surveys and Program reviews.

    SELTs are an important source of information to inform individual teaching practice, decisions about teaching duties, and course and program curriculum design. They enable the University to assess how effectively its learning environments and teaching practices facilitate student engagement and learning outcomes. Under the current SELT Policy ( course SELTs are mandated and must be conducted at the conclusion of each term/semester/trimester for every course offering. Feedback on issues raised through course SELT surveys is made available to enrolled students through various resources (e.g. MyUni). In addition aggregated course SELT data is available.

    The course is constantly being updated and revised to reflect the evolution of the law, to respond to student feedback, and to engage with the latest teaching practices. Student feedback is collected each time the course is run, including through SELT reports. Previous SELT reports, and staff feedback on them, are posted on the course MyUni site for students to view and consider.
  • Student Support
    The University Writing Centre provides academic learning and language development services and resources for local, international, undergraduate and postgraduate coursework students enrolled at the University of Adelaide.

    The centre offers practical advice and strategies for students to master reading, writing, note-taking, time management, oral presentation skills, referencing techniques and exam preparation for success at university through seminars, workshops and individual consultations.

    Lex Salus Program
    Lex Salus (law and wellbeing) is an initiative of the Adelaide Law School aimed at destigmatising mental health issues; promoting physical, mental and emotional wellness; building a strong community of staff and students; and celebrating diversity within the school. It also seeks to promote wellness within the legal profession, through the involvement of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of South Australia, the Honourable Chris Kourakis, as the official Patron of the program.

    Students can participate in the Lex Salus program by attending barbecue lunches, pancake breakfasts, knitting and crochet circles, seminars, guest speakers, conferences and other activities. Our Facebook page, website and regular all-student emails promote upcoming events, and have tips and information on wellness.

    Our Lex Salus YouTube channel also includes videos on topics like managing stress, and interviews with LGBTQ lawyers and their supporters which celebrate diversity and individuality. Students who commit to 10 hours of volunteering with Lex Salus in one year can have their service recognised on their academic transcript and through a thank you morning tea with the Chief Justice and law school staff.

    Student Life Counselling Support
    The University’s Student Life Counselling Support service provides free and confidential service to all enrolled students. We encourage you to contact the Student Life Counselling Support service on 8313 5663 to make an appointment to deal with any issues that may be affecting your study and life.
  • Policies & Guidelines

    This section contains links to relevant assessment-related policies and guidelines - all university policies.

    Academic Integrity
    All students must be familiar with the University’s Academic Integrity Policy. Academic Misconduct is a serious matter and is treated as such by the Law School and the University. Academic Misconduct (which goes beyond plagiarism) can be a ground for a refusal by the Supreme Court of South Australia to admit a person to practice as a legal practitioner in South Australia. Academic Integrity is an essential aspect of ethical and honest behaviour, which is central to the practice of the law and an understanding of what it is to be a lawyer.
  • Fraud Awareness

    Students are reminded that in order to maintain the academic integrity of all programs and courses, the university has a zero-tolerance approach to students offering money or significant value goods or services to any staff member who is involved in their teaching or assessment. Students offering lecturers or tutors or professional staff anything more than a small token of appreciation is totally unacceptable, in any circumstances. Staff members are obliged to report all such incidents to their supervisor/manager, who will refer them for action under the university's student’s disciplinary procedures.

The University of Adelaide is committed to regular reviews of the courses and programs it offers to students. The University of Adelaide therefore reserves the right to discontinue or vary programs and courses without notice. Please read the important information contained in the disclaimer.