If one looks up the word “research” in the Oxford English Dictionary, he/she will find that it is ‘the systematic study of materials and sources in order to establish facts and reach new conclusions’. This definition leads most students to the erroneous implication that legal research is daunting and too challenging for them. To the mind of most, this kind of work is only for theoreticians and academicians. In fact, the field of law has plenty of interesting issues to investigate on paper. Once a student finds the topic that is worth of looking into, the idea of exploring it gets more exciting. Researching a particular issue means learning the background, tracing the history of the legislation, finding out professional opinions of legal scholars and eventually coming up with the ideas/suggestions in a given area.
Research is a great legal experience, and, moreover, is a starting point of every lawyer’s career. Most studies show that legal research skills are the first requirement on the employer’s list. As legal research can seem a real conundrum at first, this law research paper writing guide may help to shed some light on it.
Before starting to write a research paper in Law, it is better to get well-prepared for the writing process, namely, you’re highly recommended to:
Don’t skip the prewriting process to start and finish successful writing a research paper in Law. Focus on the following research points that are essential for you as a good researcher:
There is no formula for a successful legal research paper. However, there are some basic characteristics that constitute a decent paper. A proper structure is one of the most important features necessary for you as a good writer. Even though a research paper in law has a specific nature, its general structure is confined to the introduction, main body, and conclusion.
A well-written introduction is crucial for your research paper. A quick glance over the first paragraphs gives the reader an idea of what the work is about. The reader can quickly evaluate whether it is worthy of reading the entire text by looking through the introduction. The introduction must clearly express the research problem and define the scope of the inquiry. Besides, the introduction needs to contain background information regarding the issue the author is addressing in the paper. This part serves as a foundation for further consideration, not a place to develop the argument. Thus, three main points to be outlined in the introduction:
Despite the wide range of the points to be mentioned in this section, it does not need to be lengthy. Stick to 10-15% of the length of the whole paper.
The focal point of the research paper is the main body. Since it is the most extensive part, it should be divided into sections. To present the material in a clear and comprehensible manner for the reader, each section should begin with a heading and the purpose it is expected to pursue. Paragraphing will help to organize the thoughts so that the reader can easily follow the flow of ideas. Each paragraph should begin with a topic sentence. If the reader without the knowledge in this particular area understands the paper when reading only the topic sentence, the mission of the author is accomplished. Besides, each paragraph should be completed with a concluding sentence, drawing out the main points discussed in the paragraph. The content of the main sections of the paper is supposed to answer the question the author raised in the introduction.
The final part of the research paper should be a summary of the main points stated in the law study. However, the conclusion should not be made of the phrases copied from the main body or the introduction. Logical consistency with the arguments explained in the main part is crucial. Moreover, no new arguments can be introduced in this part.
Note: Even though it seems logical to write the introduction first, it is virtually impossible to do before there is a clear argument which takes place in the main part of the paper. Therefore, the introduction should be written when the author knows where his/her argument is going. In other words, it should be written after the main part writing is finished.
A reference page lists all the sources that are used in the research paper. Whether the information is taken from the book, websites, or journals, it should be correctly referenced, so that the reader can easily retrieve it. It is necessary for a writer to make sure to note every source for the paper. The practical experience shows that students tend to remember about referencing after paraphrasing. As a result, the needed web pages are closed, and book pages are lost.
The basic requirements of the reference page are the following:
The example of an APA reference:
Derwing, T. M., Rossiter, M. J., & Munro, M. J. (2002). Teaching native speakers to listen to foreign-accented speech. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, 23(4), 245-259.
The rule implies that the research writing should be done in a clear, concise, and comprehensive manner. The legal terminology is sophisticated and most legal materials are written in a complex language. Therefore, the idea of legal research is to filter out unnecessary information, and chose the relevant material, systemize it and provide it in a simple and direct manner. The ability to write accurately and effectively is equally as important as research skills.
The support by evidence is essential to legal research writing. Every argument should not be determined by emotions or prejudices, but be based on reasons and facts. Despite the division into parts, sections, and paragraphs, all the components need to be consistent, forming a coherent paper. Only one issue can be brought up, developed logically, and lead to a comprehensible conclusion.
The phrase “New – in every discipline – means never joined before” stated in The Advertising Solution by Craig Simpson and Brian Kurtz. In turn, Kate Dewhirst, a lawyer, is sure that a legal innovation is able to unlock creativity. Whereas most students tend to think that legal area is not a place to be creative or innovative, it is still possible to use these skills to write a remarkable research paper. Creativity is a key component to being an outstanding lawyer. The only thing a writer has to do is to connect things in a way they have never been connected before.
Law is an area where you aren’t allowed to avoid quotations from the constitution, for example. So the question, “To quote or not to quote?” is positively answered for you – underpin your position as a researcher by means of strong evidence. When it comes to choosing between direct quotations or paraphrasing, it is important to define in which cases direct quotes should take place:
“No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honor and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks”.
According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, no one can invade someone’s privacy, nor harm someone’s reputation.
Common mistake: When quoting from sources, it is crucial not to take the quotations out of context. Quoting out of context takes place when a passage is removed from what is said before, and, as a result, the intended meaning is distorted.
For example, the following quotation is taken out of context:
‘According to Chief Justice John Roberts, this President’s words strike at fundamental standards of respect and tolerance, in violation of our constitutional tradition.
The original quote is taken from CNN Politics:
“Plaintiffs argue that this President’s words strike at fundamental standards of respect and tolerance, in violation of our constitutional tradition.’
Whereas the writer uses several phrases exactly as they appear in reality and does not change the structure, the meaning differs dramatically.
No research paper is considered to be completed without being proofread and edited. Once the first draft is ready, it is important to review it for errors and inconsistencies.
The legal research is not an easy task. It is time-consuming, it requires perseverance, attention to details, and hard work. However, once the topic is chosen, you as a researcher should become completely absorbed finding more and more facts. By the end of the writing process, you will be fully qualified in the scope of the prescribed study. Good luck!