The law dissertation

The law dissertation is the final module in our Master of Laws (LLM). The content of the module has been designed to support you in developing and completing your own research project. This must be based on a legal topic related to one of the individual LLM law modules and linked to one of the themes (international, comparative, regulation, human rights). Alongside the time spent in conducting your own legal research, you'll learn about the role and purpose of a literature review, how to identify a suitable research method for a legal research project, how to develop research questions and how to evaluate the ethical implications of your research. Throughout the module, the complexities and challenges of the research process are explored. The writing up process forms an important aspect of research and guidance is provided on this process. You'll also consider sources of information, including legal databases, and explore how information is critically analysed and evaluated to draw valid and evidenced conclusions.

Vocational relevance

There is growing professional and commercial demand for highly qualified graduates who have a range of transferable skills. In particular skills gained from postgraduate legal study are highly valued for their relevance and application. This module is particularly useful preparation for environments in which research and the ability to develop persuasive arguments form a significant part of the work, and for any profession that requires skilled graduates who have a demonstrable ability in developing and managing an independent research project.

Universities are keen to admit doctoral research students who have completed most of their research training, finding them better prepared to begin and better able to complete their theses in the required time. This module provides some of that training in research methods and skills.

Qualifications

W800 is a compulsory module in our

Excluded combinations

Sometimes you will not be able to count a module towards a qualification if you have already taken another module with similar content. To check any excluded combinations relating to this module, visit our excluded combination finder or check with an adviser before registering.

Module

Module code
W800
Credits

Credits

  • Credits measure the student workload required for the successful completion of a module or qualification.
  • One credit represents about 10 hours of study over the duration of the course.
  • You are awarded credits after you have successfully completed a module.
  • For example, if you study a 60-credit module and successfully pass it, you will be awarded 60 credits.
60
Study level
Across the UK, there are two parallel frameworks for higher education qualifications, the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Northern Ireland and Wales (FHEQ) and the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF). These define a hierarchy of levels and describe the achievement expected at each level. The information provided shows how OU postgraduate modules correspond to these frameworks.
OU Postgraduate
SCQF 11
FHEQ 7
Study method
Distance learning
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements

Find out more about entry requirements.

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What you will study

The module builds on the work undertaken in your previous LLM modules and equips you to undertake a significant piece of independent legal research. You'll learn how to:

  • conduct a literature review
  • select an appropriate research method
  • define a clear purpose for your research project
  • plan, organise, manage and carry out an extended independent research project
  • develop written communication skills suitable for masters level
  • write clearly and imaginatively, and with a sense of authority
  • create a persuasive argument drawing on evidence and an analysis of a range of primary and secondary legal sources
  • consider ethical implications of your planned research and how to manage these
  • use an appropriate referencing system with consistency and accuracy.

The module materials are specifically designed to support you in six key areas: developing your research proposal, undertaking your literature review, choosing an appropriate research method(s), undertaking and analysing your research to form your own conclusions and the process of writing up your research.

Your choice of legal research topic will depend on your interests. The only stipulation regarding the research topic you choose for your law dissertation is that it must be related to one of the LLM law modules you have studied at the OU and be linked to one (or more) of the themes of the LLM (international, comparative, regulation, human rights). Your tutor will help you to decide what is feasible for a legal research project and will provide feedback on your draft research proposal.

Your studies and the research you undertake will require use of online sources including the OU library legal databases. Your work on this module requires an exploration of relevant existing literature and law in your chosen topic area. You're expected to be as up to date as far as possible with recent literature, law, commentary and developments in your chosen research topic. You are expected to make effective use of OU library legal databases and other appropriate resources as you plan and conduct your research. Your law dissertation must include primary and secondary sources of law.

A tutor will support you throughout your studies. They will provide advice on the appropriateness of your research plans, choice of method, literature review and support you through the writing up process. Your tutor's comments on your written work form a key part of the teaching on the module and provide a way of monitoring your progress.

During the module you are required to produce four pieces of assessed written work before submitting the law dissertation itself. Each of these is designed to support you as you work towards writing up your law dissertation. The first piece of assessed written work is a draft of your initial research proposal on which you will receive feedback from your tutor. The second enables you to explore different research methods and identify one which meets the needs of your own research project. Again, you receive feedback from your tutor. The third is your final research proposal which must be approved by the W800 Board. The fourth piece of work is a draft chapter of your dissertation. The fifth and final piece of work is your law dissertation itself. This is marked by two tutors and their recommendations will help to determine the result awarded by the Examination and Assessment Board.

The work you produce for your law dissertation is not expected to be entirely original (originality is a requirement for a PhD). The work you submit for your law dissertation should include an analysis of the existing literature and law in the topic area covered by your dissertation.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will have a tutor, who you can contact by email or telephone, who will help you with the study material and mark and comment on three of the five pieces of assessed work, and whom you can ask for advice and guidance. Your tutor will also run online tutorials, that you are encouraged, but not obliged, to take part in.

Contact us if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.

Assessment

The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box above.

The four tutor-marked assignments (TMAs) are designed as assessments points that lead you through the process of research design, understanding of common research methodologies and design of a research proposal leading to an independent research project and a final dissertation. You are expected to submit your assessed work online through the eTMA system unless there are some difficulties which prevent you from doing so. In these circumstances, you must negotiate with your tutor to get their agreement to submit your assessment on paper. The assessments are scheduled at regular intervals. 

Course work includes

4 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
End-of-module assessment
No residential school

Future availability

The law dissertation starts once a year – in November. This page describes the module that will start in November 2023. We expect it to start for the last time in November 2026.

Regulations

As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the academic regulations which are available on our Student Policies and Regulations website.

    Entry requirements

    As the final module in the LLM you must have already completed 120 credits towards this qualification in order to register on W800 (or alternatively to have completed 90 credits and be awaiting the results from the fourth and final 30-credit module).

    The module is taught in English, and your spoken and written English must be of an adequate standard for postgraduate study. If English is not your first language, we recommend that you seek assessment under the International English Language Testing System (IELTS). Please see their website for details.

    If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please speak to an adviser.

    Register

    Start End Fee Register
    04 Nov 2023 Oct 2024 Not yet available

    Registration closes 12/10/23 (places subject to availability)

    Register
    This module is expected to start for the last time in November 2026.

    Future availability

    The law dissertation starts once a year – in November. This page describes the module that will start in November 2023. We expect it to start for the last time in November 2026.

    Additional costs

    Study costs

    There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as set books, a computer and internet access.

    Ways to pay for this module

    We know there’s a lot to think about when choosing to study, not least how much it’s going to cost and how you can pay.

    That’s why we keep our fees as low as possible and offer a range of flexible payment and funding options, including a postgraduate loan, if you study this module as part of an eligible qualification. To find out more, see Fees and funding.

    Study materials

    What's included

    You will have access to a dedicated module website which includes:

    • online university library access (including access to legal databases)
    • specially written study materials designed exclusively for this module
    • an assessment section
    • audio material
    • access to Law Postgraduate Home (which contains a range of study resources and advice)
    • access to online tutorials
    • access to online forums
    The website also includes a study planner, the module guide, assessment guide and assessment questions. 
     

    Computing requirements

    You’ll need broadband internet access and a desktop or laptop computer with an up-to-date version of Windows (10 or 11), or macOS (11 'Big Sur' or higher).

    Any additional software will be provided or is generally freely available.

    To join in spoken conversations in tutorials, we recommend a wired headset (headphones/earphones with a built-in microphone).

    Our module websites comply with web standards, and any modern browser is suitable for most activities.

    Our OU Study mobile app will operate on all current, supported versions of Android and iOS. It’s not available on Kindle.

    It’s also possible to access some module materials on a mobile phone, tablet device or Chromebook. However, as you may be asked to install additional software or use certain applications, you’ll also require a desktop or laptop as described above.

    If you have a disability

    Written transcripts of any audio components and Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) versions of printed material are available. Some Adobe PDF components may not be available or fully accessible using a screen reader. Other alternative formats of the module materials may be available in the future.

    If you have particular study requirements please tell us as soon as possible, as some of our support services may take several weeks to arrange. Visit our Disability support website to find more about what we offer.