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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Law : Law

Undergraduate Course: Advanced Legal Methods (LAWS10157)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Law CollegeCollege of Humanities and Social Science
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course has a twofold purpose, intended to provide the skills and knowledge necessary to make the most of honours study. Firstly, it will bridge the gap between the Ordinary and Honours methods of teaching and learning in the law school, equipping students to deal with the shift from the lecture/tutorial to the seminar format, and to get the most out of the latter. Secondly, it will provide students with the full range of skills necessary to excel in their 4th year dissertations, a key component of the new LLB programme. The latter goal includes not only skills in dissertation planning and structuring, but also introducing students to an array of methodological approaches that they may wish to make use of in this work.

The core aims of the course are thus as follows:
- To familiarise the students with the move from lectures to seminars, the reasons behind this, and what is expected of them;
- To impart the necessary skills, in terms both of critical analysis and communication, to allow them to get the full benefit of this;
- To teach all students how to formulate and present arguments, and how to structure these in a coherent text, to an advanced level;
- To ensure that students know the key elements in selecting and refining an appropriate research question, developing a research plan, and focusing study in the manner necessary to succeed in the dissertation;
- To ensure that students have an advanced understanding of some of the key methodological approaches that can be used in advanced legal research, their benefits and potential pitfalls.
Course description The teaching programme will include the following areas
- Accounting for the shift to a different form of teaching and learning in Honours study, and instructing students on how to profit fully from the seminar method;
- Reading legal sources, both primary (e.g. judgments) and secondary (books, journal articles), for critical understanding;
- Advanced elements of essay structuring and writing
- Essential elements of dissertation formulation, planning and execution
- Advanced doctrinal research
- Socio-legal research (quantitative and qualitative)
- Comparative methodologies
- Critical methodologies
- Uses and misuses of statistics in legal argument
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Have a full understanding of the pedagogical reasons behind the shift from lectures to seminars for the latter stages of the LLB degree; Understand how to contribute effectively to, and get the most from, the group learning environment.
  2. Have advanced knowledge and understanding of the principal research methodologies, their benefits and potential limitations; Understand what types of methodologies are appropriate for different kinds of inquiries, and why this is the case; Be able to identify and criticise flawed methodological approaches in the work of others.
  3. Be able to read, understand and critically evaluate primary and secondary legal sources to an advanced level; Understand how to analyse and synthesise complex arguments; Understand how to structure and present a complex set of their own arguments as a single coherent text; Be able, acting independently, to formulate a plausible research question, set out a research plan, identify an appropriate methodology, set out a detailed outline and ultimately write the research proposal; Understand, through the use of formative and peer feedback mechanisms, the different elements of an excellent research essay or dissertation, and understand how to interrogate their own work, and those of others, in the light of these; To reflect in detail on their own learning, to make use of feedback from both teachers and peers to improve their own performance, and to provide feedback to peers on aspects of theirs; Be able to respond creatively and originally to the different texts that they will encounter in the course of the degree.
  4. Be able to communicate effectively, both in written and oral form, complex ideas and positions, both in formal presentations and in informal Q&As or class discussions; Understand how to manage the change to the more independent and self-disciplined form of work required at honours level study; Understand some of the key uses and abuses of statistical evidence in legal research and argument.
  5. Understand the different ethical issues to which legal research can give rise, and how to address or minimise these when they do arise; Understand what formal ethical requirements may be in place when pursuing particular methodological approaches, and why this is so.
Reading List
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
KeywordsAdvanced Legal Methods
Course organiserDr Gemma Flynn
Tel: (0131 6)50 9510
Course secretaryMiss Danielle Page
Tel: (0131 6)51 4550
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