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 the 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 research will require the 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.