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76040 Research Thesis

Warning: The information on this page is indicative. The subject outline for a particular session, location and mode of offering is the authoritative source of all information about the subject for that offering. Required texts, recommended texts and references in particular are likely to change. Students will be provided with a subject outline once they enrol in the subject.

Subject handbook information prior to 2019 is available in the Archives.

UTS: Law
Credit points: 6 cp
Result type: Grade and marks

Requisite(s): (70109 Evidence AND (70120 Legal Method and Research OR 70102 Foundations of Law) AND 76090 Research Methodology)
These requisites may not apply to students in certain courses.
There are course requisites for this subject. See access conditions.
Anti-requisite(s): 77740 Research Paper AND 78102 LLM Project by Research


This elective subject comprises the research and writing of a supervised thesis on an approved topic in law. This subject must be undertaken before a student can be awarded an undergraduate law degree with honours. The thesis comprises a 10,000 word thesis in the format of an academic article. Students engage in high order legal research and scholarship appropriate to legal practice and future higher degree academic study.

Students have the opportunity to critically analyse and evaluate a topic of law of their own choosing. Students apply the research skills and knowledge gained in 76090 Research Methodology by refining the thesis topic and applying an appropriate methodology to answer the research question identified. Students further develop their communication and research skills by writing a sustained and persuasive argument that demonstrates the ability to articulate legal issues, evaluate and synthesise research materials, and to think creatively and strategically. Students are required to attend an initial workshop and engage in discussion on central aspects for the submission of a well-crafted thesis. This includes discussion of methodology; writing skills; integrity and time management. Students are also required to attend a writing workshop which is held mid-session. Students are supported through the process of writing the thesis by their academic supervisor who provides feedback on the progress of the thesis and student learning. Students also develop skills in self-management by undertaking self-directed work and learning and by responding to and applying feedback.

Subject learning objectives (SLOs)

Upon successful completion of this subject students should be able to:

1. Apply an appropriate methodology which facilitates logical, original, persuasive and justifiable arguments in response to the research question.
2. Communicate critical thinking through analysing, evaluating and synthesising relevant research materials and effectively integrating this into the argument.
3. Undertake independent research and self-directed learning and use feedback to improve research, analysis and writing skills.
4. Clearly express reasoning, logically structure the argument and comply with academic writing and style requirements.

Course intended learning outcomes (CILOs)

This subject also contributes specifically to the development of the following graduate attributes which reflect the course intended learning outcomes:

  • Critical Analysis and Evaluation
    A capacity to think critically, strategically and creatively, including an ability to identify and articulate legal issues, apply reasoning and research, engage in critical analysis and make reasoned choices (LAW.3.0)
  • Research skills
    Well-developed cognitive and practical skills necessary to identify, research, evaluate and synthesise relevant factual, legal and policy issues (LAW.4.0)
  • Communication and Collaboration
    Effective and appropriate communication skills, including highly effective use of the English language, an ability to inform, analyse, report and persuade using an appropriate medium and message and an ability to respond appropriately (LAW.5.0)
  • Self management
    The ability to implement appropriate self-management and lifelong learning strategies, including initiating self-directed work and learning, judgment and responsibility, self assessment of skills, personal wellbeing and appropriate use of feedback and, a capacity to adapt to and embrace change (LAW.6.0)

Teaching and learning strategies

Strategy 1: Student Preparation: Prior to enrolling in the subject students must identify an appropriate academic supervisor and obtain that person’s agreement to supervise the thesis. Prior to attending the first formal workshop students must have made contact with their supervisor and send them a research proposal which includes the thesis question, a brief description of the research into the background and context of the topic, and a draft chapter breakdown of the thesis and a bibliography. The supervisor will provide feedback on the proposal which will enable students to commence researching and writing the thesis in a timely manner. In order to collaborate effectively on the thesis students should prepare for any communications with their supervisor during the teaching session. This preparation could include collating questions about areas of difficulty or uncertainty and sending draft chapters for feedback. Students are required to take part in a Coursework Research workshop (see strategy 2 below). Preparation for the workshop includes students reflecting upon their thesis topic and their expectations for the semester. Prior to attending the workshop students will complete the UTSOnline integrity quiz and review the recommended materials which include the UTS:Law Guide to Written Communication and the Australian Guide to Legal Citation (relevant edition). Students must do this preparation prior to the Workshop to reinforce their understanding of academic integrity from previous semesters and to ensure disclosure of any prior work in their research area. The Workshop will specifically revise any issues of concern identified by students as a result of this preparatory work.

Strategy 2: Participation in Coursework Research Workshop: This workshop is usually held in week one or two of the teaching period. Students will have opportunity to clarify and refine their understanding of the procedural aspects of the supervision process. This involves discussion of the procedural rules surrounding supervision as specific to UTS:Law. Aspects which may be new to this type of arrangement for students will be discussed. For example, the concept of self-management in terms of the relationship they will have with their supervisor requires discussion and debate. Students will be required to debate the efficiency of approaches to their supervisor in terms of feedback; frequency of feedback; incorporating feedback; setting meeting dates and times and supervisor time frames. Further the formal requirements for thesis writing and submission will be noted such as word limits; presentation; extension request etc. . Students will be required, under the guidance of academic staff at the workshop, to implement a timetable for self-managed learning for the session. This is critical to facilitate the self-management strategies required to fulfil this subject. While students have an academic supervisor the expectation of the thesis, and therefore the point communicated in the workshop is that this is an individual piece of research. A student panel who have previously completed the thesis are asked to come to discuss with current students time management and writing techniques. This workshop also encourages students to discuss their relationship with their supervisors and their expectations and use of feedback.

Strategy 3.Feedback: Students are expected to communicate the progress of their thesis and solicit feedback from their supervisor throughout the teaching session. Students are required to send an outline of their thesis to the supervisor prior to enrolling in the subject so that the supervisor can provide timely feedback on the scope of the topic, the research question and methodology. Students collaborate with their supervisor to discuss relevant material, including currency and reliance on primary legal and secondary materials; refine their topic, research questions and methodology; develop a logical structure and persuasive and justifiable arguments; apply critical thinking to research material and legal issues; and how to comply with academic writing and style requirements. Students will receive feedback during the teaching session from their supervisor on an agreed basis. By applying the feedback received from supervisors students will develop and improve their research, analytical and academic writing skills.

Strategy 4. Independent Learning: Self-management and self-directed work are a key part of learning in this subject. Collaboration between the academic supervisor and student depends on the student’s ability to complete tasks, submit them in a timely manner and to solicit specific feedback. The skills involved in self-management are essential to legal practice and it is important that students develop these skills. Strategies for self-management and self-directed work include, exercising judgment about the content of the thesis and being responsible for the progress of the thesis; managing time effectively and meeting deadlines; the ability to self-assess skills and knowledge, including identifying areas for improvement; soliciting and applying feedback; and the ability to monitor and implement strategies to maintain personal wellbeing. Students are responsible for seeking assistance from their supervisor or the subject coordinator if they encounter difficulty managing their time or the workload involved in writing the thesis.

Content (topics)

The research consists of an independent theoretical or doctrinal investigation of an approved topic in law. It is envisaged that the research thesis will build on existing abilities to write well-researched and critical essays, but goes beyond this in several fundamental ways as is apparent from the assessment criteria listed in the ‘Assessment’ section of the subject outline.


Assessment task 1: Research Thesis


This task addresses the following subject learning objectives:

1, 2, 3 and 4

This task contributes specifically to the development of the following graduate attributes:

LAW.3.0, LAW.4.0, LAW.5.0 and LAW.6.0

Weight: 100%

10 000 including ALL references (reference and all other material included in footnotes), table of contents and any preface, excluding appendices, tables, the abstract and the bibliography.

Please note that the word limit will be strictly enforced. There is a 10% leeway, after which 1% of the marks will be deducted for every 100 words in excess.


The criteria for assessing your Research Thesis reflect the objectives of the subject. Each criteria is listed under the objectives below, any marker will be concerned to see whether and if so to what extent the thesis achieves the following four objectives.

1. Apply and justify a research methodology which demonstrates logical, original, persuasive and complex arguments in response to the research question. (GA 4; GA 5)

  • An appropriate methodology which facilitates a coherent, persuasive and justifiable response to the research question.

2. Communicate critical thinking through analysing, evaluating and synthesising relevant research materials and effectively integrating this into the argument to solve complex legal issues. (GA 3; GA 4; GA 5)

  • Original insight and critical thinking in addressing the problem.
  • A high level of analysis and critical evaluation of research materials and the issues raised by the topic which are synthesized and effectively integrated into the argument
  • A sustained thesis or argument supported by critically evaluated evidence.

3. Be accountable independent researchers and exercise judgment with respect to using feedback to improve research, analysis and writing skills. (GA 6)

  • Independent research which includes relevant and contemporary materials from both primary and secondary sources and, if appropriate, materials from disciplines other than law.

4. Clearly express reasoning, logically structure the argument and comply with academic writing and style requirements. (GA 5)

  • Compliance with academic writing and style requirements including presentation of footnotes/endnotes and bibliography in accordance with the UTS:LAW Guide to Written Communication.
  • Logical structure and clear expression of reasoning and argument.
  • Conclusions which are supported by evidence, analysis and argument.

Further information on the marking criteria can be found on UTSOnline. The marking rubric will be available together with any additional required information.

Required texts

Recommended texts

Recommended Reading

The following are recommended references for legal research, method, writing and referencing in general:

Legal method and legal research

  • Wayne Booth, Gregory Colomb and Joseph Williams, The Craft of Research (Chicago Guides, 3rd ed, 2008)
  • C Cook, R Creyke, R Geddes and I Holloway, Laying Down the Law (LexisNexis, 9th ed., 2014)
  • Norman Denzin and Yvonne Lincoln (eds), The Landscape of Qualitative Research (Sage, 4th ed, 2012)
  • Simon Halliday and Patrick Schmidt, Conducting Law and Society Research : Reflections on Methods and Practices, (Cambridge University Press, 2009)
  • Sue Milne and Kay Tucker, A Practical Guide to Legal Research (Lawbook Co, 2nd ed, 2010)
  • Mike McConville and Wing Hong Chui (eds), Research Methods for Law (Edinburgh University Press, 2007))
  • Keith Punch, Developing Effective Thesis Proposals (Sage, 2nd ed., 2006)
  • Gordon Rugg and Marian Petrie, A Gentle Guide to Research Methods (McGraw Hill, 2007)
  • Rob Watt and Francis Johns, Concise Legal Research (The Federation Press, 6th ed., 2009)

Legal writing

  • M Asprey, Plain Language for Lawyers (The Federation Press, 4th ed., 2010)
  • David Evans, Paul Gruba and Justin Zobel, How to Write a Better Thesis (Melbourne University Press, 3rd ed., 2012)•
  • Steve Foster, How to Write Better Law Essays (Pearson, 3rd ed., 2012)
  • Terry Hutchinson, Researching and Writing in Law (Lawbook, 2010)
  • Michael Salter and Julie Mason, Writing Law Dissertations: an introduction and guide to the conduct of legal research (Pearson, 2007)