Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2010-2011 (archived)

Module LAW41115: Applied Research Methods in Law

Department: Law

LAW41115: Applied Research Methods in Law

Type Tied Level 4 Credits 15 Availability Available in 2010/11 Module Cap None.
Tied to M1K116
Tied to M1K616
Tied to M1K316


  • None.


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • The module aims to provide all post graduate law students with appropriate, specialised knowledge of the range of research methods and skills available in legal studies and an advanced understanding of their strengths and weaknesses, and of their relevance for different forms of legal research. The module will provide students with the skills and training to enable them to find primary and secondary resources for research, develop an understanding of producing written work, develop presentation skills and improve their understanding of the diverse forms legal analysis can take. The module will also introduce students to the English legal system. This will include looking at the common law, case law and statute law, the structure of the court system and the separation of powers, key concepts in the English legal system. The module creates a framework within which students can critically assess possible research topics in light of research methods issues and where they can design, discuss and develop a detailed research proposal in consultation with a prospective supervisor that meets the demanding standards of a postgraduate dissertation


  • Research Skills
  • Using bibliographic databases
  • Academic source criticism / literature reviews
  • Writing clearly and critically
  • Understanding legal issues
  • Designing a research project
  • Presentation skills
  • Formulating research questions

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Students will be able to
  • carry out legal research in a variety of contexts
  • have an understanding of how to formulate and design a research project
  • understand the processes involved in writing, publishing and presenting research findings
Subject-specific Skills:
  • synthesise, critically evaluate and present complex material, in a clear and logical manner.
  • formulate research questions at an advanced level
  • develop effective research strategies for identifying and assessing potential sources and for structuring their work in order to sustain complex analysis of controversial topics
Key Skills:
  • express themselves in writing clearly and concisely on technical topics, and explain why particular issues are important and/or controversial
  • to design a research project employing principles of academic rigour.
  • conceive and plan a substantial advanced research project independently and refining this through responding to critical feedback and discussion.
  • understand a range of complex materials
  • describe accurately and comprehensibly the arguments and analysis of other commentators
  • write in a clear and structured way and to put forward their ideas in a scholarly manner
  • use the electronic and hard copy research tools relevant to their research

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • The module will be taught through a mixture of lectures and seminar classes. The lectures will provide students with many of the key information, concepts and skills, while the seminars will provide students with the opportunity to develop these skill and engage in detailed discussion. Students will progressively acquire the knowledge necessary to engage in a more sophisticated analysis of the problems under consideration and to critically assess both primary sources (legislation, case law, Treaties) and secondary sources (scholarship, reports etc).
  • Students will also have to give presentations to their peers on research they have chosen and carried out. The module will be assessed by means of a 500 words research proposal (10%); an annotated bibliography of a selection of maximum 20 items (to include both scholarship and case law) (15%); and a 2000 words essay (75%).

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 2 Weekly 2 4
Seminars 6 Fortnightly 2 16
Preparation and Reading 130
Total 150

Summative Assessment

Component: Assessed Essay Component Weighting: 75%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
assessed essay of up to 2,000 words to be submitted in the Epiphany term 2,000 words 100%
Component: Research Proposal Component Weighting: 10%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Research Proposal 500 100%
Component: Annotated Bibliography Component Weighting: 15%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Bibliography Min. 10 items / Max 20 items 100%

Formative Assessment:

The formative assessment may take the form of either giving a group presentation or peer reviewing a group presentation. An optional essay or problem question may also be sent

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University