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76090 Research Methodology

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): 70102 Foundations of Law
There are course requisites for this subject. See access conditions.


Research Methodology is designed to prepare undergraduate students in law to undertake a substantial research project at an advanced level such as an honours thesis. This subject is compulsory for those students who wish to be awarded a Bachelor Degree with Honours and who are enrolled in LLB Honours Courses. Through a series of seminars and workshops students are provided with a thorough grounding in what it means to undertake legal research and to produce an effective research strategy and high quality legal writing. Students explore a topic of their own choosing in-depth and produce a research proposal. This subject is of particular interest to those students who are considering a higher research degree in law.

Subject learning objectives (SLOs)

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

1. Critically analyse and evaluate scholarly, legal and other research materials and prepare a critical overview of the subject area pertaining to the research project.
2. Apply creative and critical thinking in defining appropriate research questions and in developing and justifying appropriate research methodology for a research project.
3. Execute a written research proposal that demonstrates advanced critical thinking, academic writing and research skills.
4. Be a reflective researcher with the ability to present their research approach, critically evaluate the research design of others and give and use feedback appropriately.

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 and self-directed learning: Students prepare for seminars by completing self-directed work outside of the classroom. Students engage with a range of research resources, including book chapters, journal articles and online sources that introduce seminar topics and provide access to ideas about research. Students are also required to complete learning activities including identifying problems that may arise in research projects and proposing how these can be addressed or resolved. These activities are designed so that students can evaluate their understanding of the knowledge and ideas in the research materials and to provide a basis for active participation in seminar discussion. Engaging with the materials and activities also provides the foundational knowledge that will assist students in developing their own research project and proposal. As a part of preparation students can post questions on the Discussion Board on UTSOnline to seek clarification and feedback on their understanding of the research materials and activities. The Discussion Board is monitored by staff and students are encouraged to collaborate and engage with the discussion. Participating in these discussions will improve the ability to analyse and evaluate research materials.

Strategy 2 Interactive seminars: The ability to understand the research process and analyse different approaches to research are essential academic and professional skills for law graduates. Seminars provide students with a range of opportunities to practise advanced research skills and apply their strategic and analytical thinking as they identify and investigate legal and research issues. Students improve their understanding of and ability to engage in the research process by participating in discussion-based and collaborative learning in seminars. Seminar activities are designed to provide students with opportunities to identify and synthesise research materials, and to develop research questions, an appropriate research methodology and proposal for their individual research project. Students will receive feedback on their research topic and question from their supervisor in week 3. Formative feedback in each seminar will respond to the quality of student participation and their progress with their individual research proposal.

Strategy 3 Guest academic presenters: UTS Law Faculty has a thriving research culture with a diverse range of research areas. Academics will be invited to discuss their research arguments and methodologies. Students will gain an understanding of the kinds of methodologies used in legal research and how they are tailored to the research question. Students will have the opportunity to discuss the research strategies employed in their research areas and to consider the methodology appropriate to developing an argument in their thesis area.

Subject Delivery

This subject will be delivered in weekly three hour seminars.

Content (topics)

  • Defining the research topic
  • The nature of legal research
  • Developing a research question
  • Library and technical research skills
  • Literature review
  • Research methodologies
  • Linking methodologies to the research question
  • Developing a research proposal
  • Constructing an argument
  • Academic writing and plagiarism
  • The supervisor relationship and thesis planning


Assessment task 1: Class Participation


This task is intended to assess students’ ability to critically assess their own and others’ research and oral expression of their own research and of feedback on others’ research.


This task addresses the following subject learning objectives:

1 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: 30%

2500 words

Assessment task 2: Annotated Bibliography


This task is intended to assess analytical and research skills and forms the basis of the literature review which will be included in the research proposal.


This task addresses the following subject learning objectives:

1 and 3

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

LAW.3.0, LAW.4.0 and LAW.5.0

Weight: 30%

1500 words

  • Distillation of fields of research relating to well-stated thesis question
  • Well-developed research skills to identify relevant literature from a variety of sources, and state citation or source of each piece
  • High order capacity to interpret and synthesise research arguments in each source
  • Ability to evaluate scholarly and other materials in light of their own research strategy and state how this piece is relevant to the research question and how the student intends to use it

Assessment task 3: Research Proposal


This task is intended to assess written, analytical and research skills in creating a research proposal. This may form the basis of their honours 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: 40%

1,500 words

  • Advanced critical thinking demonstrated through articulation of research question in chosen field and propose hypothesis or potential argument(s)
  • Strong ability to map relevant literature in the field (including any leading cases or important pieces of legislation) and evaluate its utility in light of research question
  • Critical analysis demonstrated through sound methodological choices and justification of these choices
  • Ability to articulate why the proposed research is significant
  • Ability to break down proposed argument by suggesting a tentative structure of sections or chapters setting it out
  • High level academic written expression, in terms of style, grammar and correct legal referencing

Required texts

Hutchinson, T, Researching and Writing in Law (4th ed, 2018, Lawbook)

Recommended texts

Dawn Watkins and Mandy Burton (eds) Research Methods in Law (2013, Routledge).

Australian Guide to Legal Citation (3rd ed 2010) available online

Michele Asprey, Plain Language for Lawyers (3rd ed, 2003)

Wayne Booth, Gregory Colomb and Joseph Williams, The Craft of Research (2nd ed, 2003)

Bott, Cowley and Falconer, Nemes and Coss' Effective Legal Research, (3rd ed, 2007)

J Bell, Doing your Research Project: A Guide for First-Time Researchers in Education and Social Science. (Open University Press, 4th ed, 2005)

Alan Bryman, Social Research Methods (2012, OUP)

Cook, Creyke, Geddes and Hamer, Laying Down the Law (7th ed, 2009)

P Cryer, The Research Students Guide to Success. (Open University Press, 3rd ed, 2006).

Margaret Davies, Asking the Law Question (3rd ed, 2008)

S Delamont, Supervising the PhD: A Guide to Success. (Open University Press, 3rd ed, 2006).

Norman Denzin and Yvonna Lincoln (eds), The Landscape of Qualitative Research (1998)

Norman Denzin and Yvonna Lincoln (eds), Strategies of Qualitative Inquiry. (Sage, 1998).

David Evans and Paul Gruba, How to Write a Better Thesis (2nd ed, 2002)

Foster, S, How to Write Better Law Essays (2007)

N Graves and Verma, V, Working for a Doctorate: A Guide for the Humanities and Social Sciences. (Routledge, 1997).

Tony Greenfield (ed), Research Methods for Postgraduates (2nd ed, 2002)

Rupert Haigh, Legal English (2008)

Simon Halliday, Conducting Law and Social Research: Reflections on Methods and Practices (2009)

Mark Israel and Iain Hay, Research Ethics for Social Scientists: Between Ethical Conduct and Regulatory

Compliance (2006)

Ros Macdonald and Deborah Clark-Dickson, Clear and Precise: Writing Skills for Today's lawyer (2nd ed, 2005)

Tim May, Social Research: Issues, Methods and Process (2nd ed, 1997)

Mike McConville and Wing Hong Chui, Research Methods for Law (2007)

Margaret McKerchar, Design and Conduct of Research in Tax, Law and Accounting(2010)

M Meehan, Grammar for Lawyers (2007)

Sue Milne and Kay Tucker, A Practical Guide to Legal Research (2008)

R Murray, How to Write a Thesis. (Open University Press, 3ed ed, 2011).

Keith Punch, Developing Effective Thesis Proposals (2000)

Gordon Rugg and Marian Petrie, A Gentle Guide to Research Methods (2007)

Michael Salter and Julie Mason, Writing Law Dissertations: An Introduction and Guide to the Conduct of Legal

Research (2007)

Anita Stuhmcke, Legal Referencing (3rd ed, 2005)

Mark Van Hoecke (ed) Methodologies of Legal Research: Which kind of Method for what kind of discipline? (2011,


Rob Watt and Francis Johns, Concise Legal Research, (6th ed, 2009).