LAW 7187 - Advanced Legal Research and Writing

North Terrace Campus - Semester 2 - 2021

This course is concerned with the craft of scholarly research and writing in the field of law. Topics include the elements, ethics, and everyday life of a major research project; theoretical approaches to the study of law (and how these shape a project); techniques of reading and writing; the practice of giving and receiving feedback; and the purposes and politics of the university and an (inter)disciplinary training in law. The course is assessed through the development and peer review of a research proposal.

  • 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
    Assessment Oral Presentation, Research Proposal, Critical analysis of a piece of writing
    Course Staff

    Course Coordinator: Dr Shane Chalmers

    Phone: TBC
    Building: Ligertwood Building
    Room: TBC
    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.
    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 Scholarship and the university

    The first seminar is introductory. In the first half we will introduce ourselves and our research projects. In the second half we will begin to think about the craft of scholarly research and writing in the field of law by reflecting on the institution of the university and the characteristics of scholarship.
    Week 2 Research ethics

    In this seminar we will begin to think about the ethics of university research, beginning with the question of what it means to undertake a legal research and writing project from within a settler-colonial institution on Kaurna Country. What responsibilities might this impose on a university researcher, and on a researcher of law in particular? And what might it mean to “decolonise” university research? We will also consider more general ethical questions that arise in relation to the conduct of research and writing (such as responsibilities we might have to our objects and archives of study, to scholarship and scholarly communities, and to broader publics) as well as specific questions that relate to conducting research with human participants.
    Week 3 The elements and everyday life of a research project

    The purpose of this seminar is to turn from the macro considerations of the university and university research to the more micro considerations of what is involved in undertaking, and completing, a major legal research and writing project. What are the conventional design elements of a project? And what does the everyday life of researching and writing look like?
    Week 4 Research questions and the importance of theoretical approach

    In this seminar we will focus on arguably the most important, and most difficult, element of a project: formulating the research question. We will also begin to reflect on what is, for many, an even more daunting prospect: approaching our project as a theoretical matter. We will also begin to consider how these two tasks are intimately connected – how our theoretical approach shapes the questions that we ask in our research (as well as shaping all of the other elements of our project).
    Week 5 Approaches - traditional

    This seminar is the first in a series of four in which we will consider specific theoretical approaches to research in the field of law. The topic this week is traditional approaches. Every theoretical approach is more or less part of a tradition of thought, and therefore could be called traditional. However, the approaches that we consider this week are “traditional” not just in the sense that they are part of a tradition of thought, but also in the sense that they share an integral, affirmative relationship with a particular legal tradition. In other words, as a theoretical approach to the study of law, they are internal to that law’s own tradition of thought. While there are as many traditional approaches to law as there are legal traditions, we will consider just two in this seminar: Indigenous approaches within Indigenous Law traditions, and the doctrinal approach within Common Law traditions.
    Week 6 Approaches - critical

    For this week’s seminar we will turn from traditional to critical approaches to the study of law. Just as there are a huge variety of traditional approaches, there are also a huge variety of critical approaches (drawing from feminist theory, critical race theory, postmodernist and postructuralist theory, postcolonial and decolonial studies, Indigenous studies, environmental humanities, amongst many others). As you read the text for this week reflect on what is distinctive about a “critical” approach. If a defining characteristic of traditional approaches is their internal, affirmative relationship with a particular legal tradition, then what kind of relationship does a critical approach have to law? The relationship is of course “critical”, but what exactly does that mean? And how might this relationship shape a research project?
    Week 7 Approaches - social sciences

    The third major approach to the study of law that we will consider comes under a variety of names. In continental Europe it is referred to as the sociology of law, in the UK it is called socio-legal studies, and in North America it is known as law and society. In Australia both socio-legal studies and law and society are used relatively interchangeably. While there are important differences, the purpose of this week’s seminar is to consider their similarities as an approach to the study of law “in context” that draws on disciplines in the social sciences.
    Week 8 Approaches - humanities

    The final approach that we will consider in the course draws on the humanities in the study of law. Or perhaps more precisely, it approaches law as part of the humanities, and uses a range of disciplinary methods – from literary and visual studies, to history and geography, to archaeology and musicology – in order to deepen our understanding of law as a cultural phenomenon. With its contemporary roots in the field of law and literature, and overlapping with (and sometimes synonymous with) cultural legal studies, this approach has become one of the most important for the interdisciplinary study of law.
    Week 9 Reading methods

    In our first seminar after the mid-term break we will reflect on the activity that we spend the most time doing as researchers: reading. On one hand, this is probably the activity that we have the most training in as researchers. On the other hand, precisely because reading has become so natural for us it is also probably the activity that we reflect upon the least. The objective of this seminar is to denaturalise the practice of reading, in order to make it more available to us as a skill in our research.
    Week 10 Writing methods

    In the seminar this week we will consider one of the other most important activities that we do as researchers, and one of the hardest to do well: writing. A major aim of this seminar is to reflect on the significance of the written form, and what you can do with, or through, form. Most of us probably spend most of our time thinking about the content of our writing – about the ideas and information that we want to communicate. In this seminar we will think instead about the ways in which we can communicate that content – and, of course, the relationship between the two: how the content of our writing should shape its form, and how form shapes the content. The other major aim of the seminar is to reflect on different genres of writing as researchers in the field of law (such as the genre of the research proposal, and how this differs from the research paper, the thesis, or the essay), which will require us to think about style and audience.
    Week 11 Giving and receiving feedback (workshop)

    The seminar this week has been designed as a peer review workshop for your research proposals. The purpose is to enhance your skills in giving and receiving feedback in a respectful and scholarly manner, while assisting you with the development of your research proposal through feedback from your peers.
    Week 12 Research in the corporatised university

    Our final seminar will conclude by returning to some of the big picture questions of doing scholarly research in law within a contemporary Australian university. We will also review the course as a whole and prise back open any pits of concern or interest.

    *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
    Research proposal Individual 60% 4,000 words Sunday of Week 12 at 6pm 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
    Reflections (five) Individual 30% 300-500 words each Monday of Weeks
    4, 5, 6, 7, 8 at 6pm
    1, 2, 5, 6
    Peer review Individual 10% 6 minutes Tuesday of Week 11 at 9am 2, 3
    Total 100%
    Assessment Detail

    Research proposal

    The main assessment task is a written research proposal. This assignment has two objectives: (1) to assist you with the development of your broader research and writing project; and (2) to increase your knowledge of and skills in the genre of the research proposal. The length of the research proposal is 4000 words (including references and bibliography). You will be provided with specific instructions on how to write the research proposal in Weeks 1-3 (including a seminar on the elements of a research proposal in Week 3).


    The second assessment task involves writing five reflections of 300-500 words each, due in Weeks 4-8, on how the week’s topic relates to your broader research project/proposal. This assignment has two objectives: (1) to assist you with the development of your research proposal; and (2) to deepen your engagement with the course material.

    Peer review

    The seminar in Week 11 is designed as a peer review workshop. The assessment task for this workshop involves reviewing a colleague’s draft research proposal and giving oral feedback (6 minutes) to them during the workshop. This assignment has two objectives: (1) to enhance your skills in giving and receiving feedback in a respectful and scholarly manner; and (2) to assist you with the development of your research proposal through feedback from your peers.


    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.