Credit points


Campus offering

No unit offerings are currently available for this unit


120 cp of LAWS units

Unit rationale, description and aim

The Rule of Law, and access to legal advice, are the basis of free, democratic, and just societies which promote personal dignity, thriving communities, and the Common Good. Law graduates working in legal practice, in business, in government, and in the community play an essential role in promoting and upholding the Rule of Law in Australia and across the world. The Bachelor of Laws degree is an accredited degree for admission as a legal practitioner in Australia.

This level four unit contributes to the development of:

  • advanced theoretical and technical knowledge in legal theory and methodology;
  • advanced, cognitive, technical and communication skills and the ability to apply these to complex issues;
  • advanced research and writing skills.

This Unit introduces students to the central principles of legal research, including designing a research question, assessing a topic’s significance, selecting appropriate methodology, conducting a literature review, engaging with a variety of sources, making a claim and supporting it, anticipating objections, planning, writing and revising a significant piece of legal research. The Unit is compulsory for those undertaking the Law Honours Thesis (LAWS451). Throughout the course of the Unit, Honours students have the opportunity to select their thesis topic, begin their research and develop an appropriate methodology. 

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - Formulate a research problem with the research skills necessary to deal with that investigation (GA4)

LO2 - Complete a legal literature search for a thesis proposal and critically evaluate the legal literature found as a result of that search in light of the research problem (GA8)

LO3 - Understand and apply the various approaches to research methods including those relevant to a thesis proposal (GA5)

LO4 - Understand the components of a major piece of legal research and know how to draw these together (GA9)

LO5 - Apply the principles of clear and precise writing in preparing and reviewing a proposal for a major piece of legal research (GA9, GA10) 

Graduate attributes

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

GA5 - demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession 

GA8 - locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information 

GA9 - demonstrate effective communication in oral and written English language and visual media 

GA10 - utilise information and communication and other relevant technologies effectively.


Topics will include: 

  1. Introduction to the nature of legal research: purpose and principles;
  2. Traditional and contemporary theories of law and research methodologies;
  3. Developing a research proposal;
  4. Writing a legal literature review, including critical evaluation of legal literature;
  5. Writing a legal thesis proposal, including the ability to formulate a thesis; how to frame a discussion or argument; and how to critically self-evaluate, edit, and revise the proposal itself;
  6. Writing and presenting research, including editing, formatting, advanced referencing and oral presentation skills.

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

Mode:Lectures, tutorials, electronic consultation, library tasks and presentations or Online lectures and activities.  


Duration:3 hours per week over 12 weeks or equivalent.  Students are expected to spend 150 hours in total for this unit. 


This level four unit allows students to develop advanced research, writing and legal reasoning skills.  

Our strategy is to encourage students to creatively engage with unit content and to practice these skills.  

Honours students will have the opportunity develop their thesis proposal as part of this unit.  

The unit is designed to be delivered in intensive, weekly or online. We have taken a blended learning approach to provide accessibility and flexibility to our students and a student focused approach that increases depth of learning and engagement through actively utilising LEO.   

Assessment strategy and rationale

Assessment in this Unit is designed to enable students to demonstrate higher level analytical, research, presentation and writing skills. The assessment procedures used will enable students to develop capacity to undertake: 

  • Bibliographical Tasks; 
  • Presentation of a Critical Literature Review; 
  • Presentation of a Research Problem; 
  • Research Tasks; 
  • Legal Writing Tasks; 
  • Oral Presentations; 
  • Research Essays; 
  • Presentation of a Draft Proposal for Comment and Analysis by Panel Discussion; 
  • Defence of a Thesis Proposal. 

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Assignment 1: Abstract, Essay     

Outline, Preliminary Bibliography on a topic chosen in consultation with lecturer and/or Supervisor 


LO1, LO2, LO5 

GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9, GA10 

Assignment 2: Research Paper: 

Class Presentation in format agreed with lecturer.  


LO3, LO4  

GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9, GA10 

 Assignment 3: Literature Review and Research


LO3, LO4, LO5 

GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9, GA10 

Representative texts and references


Beazley, M and Edwards, L, The Process & The Product: A Bibliography of Scholarship about Legal Scholarship (1998) 49 Mercer Law Review 741

Cane, P and Kritzer, H, The Oxford Handbook of Empirical Legal Research (Oxford University Press, 2012)

Hart, HLA, The Concept of Law (Oxford University Press, 3rd ed, 2012)

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

Meyerson, D, Jurisprudence (Oxford University Press, 2011)

Sanderson, J and Kin Kelly, K, A Practical Guide to Legal Research (Thomson Reuters, 4th ed, 2017)

Various library guides (“Lib guides”) on writing substantial papers in law school e.g. from the University of Chicago:, and research and writing skills from the University of Oxford: 


The following Library Guides (“libguides”) and Centres are recommended:  

Oxford University: 

University of Michigan:  


Becker, H. Tricks of the Trade: How to Think about your Research while You're Doing it (University of Chicago Press, 1998) 

Murray, R. How to Write a Thesis. (Open University Press, 4th ed. 2017) 


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