Coronavirus (Covid-19) Information

Module SXL-4119:
Legal Research Methods

Module Facts

Run by School of Law

15 Credits or 7.5 ECTS Credits

Semester 2

Organiser: Prof Zhen Jing

Overall aims and purpose

This is a practical module designed to develop the necessary legal research skills to support study and research at LLM level. The emphasis of the course will be on the knowledge and skills needed to draft a good quality Masters’ dissertation and research papers. Sessions include an overview and introduction to legal research methods; exploring the planning phase of your dissertation; examining the construction of a literature review and bibliography; training in traditional and empirical legal research methods; using appropriate legal English or Welsh throughout your dissertation and crafting arguments and persuasive text that is adequately substantiated and referenced.

Course content

The module will cover the following topics: using a Law Library, essay writing for Masters students, legal writing, identification and evaluation of sources, avoiding plagiarism, referencing correctly, compiling a bibliography, planning a dissertation project, writing a research proposal, identifying a dissertation research question, research methodologies, and doing a literature review.

Assessment Criteria


Present highly competent work, display a critical awareness of empirical, theoretical and methodological issues as to topic, should put forward coherent arguments, and demonstrate awareness of contemporary debates with relevant literature. Well organised and thorough bibliographic information.


Present coherent and competent work, analyse a range of empirical, theoretical and methodological issues as appropriate to the topic studies, provide sound bibliographic support with correct referencing.


Present work that addresses one or more substantive topic(s) describe some of the main empirical and/or methodological issues arising from the literature or any other data base collected during the course of research, present an adequate piece of written work with basic bibliographic sources and referencing, and/or oral.

Learning outcomes

  1. Develop a critical awareness of a broad range of research methods and tools (underpinned by a strong conceptual understanding of the research processes and their underlying philosophies).

  2. Understand how to present a research project proposal.

  3. Develop a critical understanding of the basic principles of research design and strategy (including how to formulate researchable questions), sufficient to enable them to make appropriate choices for their own research.

  4. Understand how to write an appropriate methodology and literature review for a research project.

  5. Appreciate and use appropriate legal research methods and skills in relation to the submission of legal essays and a dissertation.

  6. Develop appropriate communication skills and in particular the ability to communicate in a clear and succinct manner and present relevant legal and policy arguments.

  7. Identify, and reflect critically upon, the problems associated with legal research, and develop the appropriate analytical skills for their relevant LLM programme.

  8. Use legal Welsh and/or legal English appropriately in essays and dissertation.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
EXAM Exam 33.34
Written assignment, including essay Research Proposal 66.66

Teaching and Learning Strategy

Private study 128

The module will consist of 11 x 2 hour teaching blocks. The instructor will contextualise the teaching in discussions using examples based on the exercises. Students will be expected to be able to engage in dialogue about substantive issues for each class, and be actively engaged in activities such as small group exercises that will enhance their understanding.


Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • Self-Management - Able to work unsupervised in an efficient, punctual and structured manner. To examine the outcomes of tasks and events, and judge levels of quality and importance
  • Exploring - Able to investigate, research and consider alternatives
  • Information retrieval - Able to access different and multiple sources of information
  • Inter-personal - Able to question, actively listen, examine given answers and interact sensitevely with others
  • Critical analysis & Problem Solving - Able to deconstruct and analyse problems or complex situations. To find solutions to problems through analyses and exploration of all possibilities using appropriate methods, rescources and creativity.
  • Presentation - Able to clearly present information and explanations to an audience. Through the written or oral mode of communication accurately and concisely.
  • Teamwork - Able to constructively cooperate with others on a common task, and/or be part of a day-to-day working team
  • Argument - Able to put forward, debate and justify an opinion or a course of action, with an individual or in a wider group setting
  • Self-awareness & Reflectivity - Having an awareness of your own strengths, weaknesses, aims and objectives. Able to regularly review, evaluate and reflect upon the performance of yourself and others


Reading list

*SUGGESTED READING RESOURCES - available at Bangor University Library.***

• Steve Foster, How to Write Better Law Essays (4th edn Pearson 2016)

• Emily Finch and Stefan Fafinski, Legal Skills (7th edn Oxford University Press 2019)

• J Holland and J Webb, Learning Legal Rules (10th edn Oxford University Press 2019)

• ATH Smith, Glanville Williams: Learning the Law (16th edn Sweet and Maxwell 2016)

• Rupert Haigh, Legal English (4th edn Routledge 2015)

• Michael Salter and Julie Mason, Writing Law Dissertations : An Introduction and Guide to the Conduct of Legal Research (2nd edn Pearson 2012).

• Mike McConville and Wing Hong Chui, Research Methods for Law (2nd Edinburgh University Press 2016).

• Martin Davies, Study Skills for International Postgraduates (Palgrave 2011).

• David Madsen, Successful Dissertations and Theses: A Guide to Graduate Student Research from Proposal to Completion (2nd edn Jossey-Bass 2013).

Courses including this module

Compulsory in courses: