Category Archives: Writing Research

Self Assessment – Evaluate Your Research Essay Before Submission

The LASC has developed a rubric (a document that articulates the expectations for an assignment by listing the criteria, or what counts, and describing levels of quality from excellent to poor) for legal research papers that may help you to assess your own writing before you submit.

This rubric was not developed specifically for the dispute resolution paper, but does provide guidance on the criteria for a research essay.

You can download the rubric here: Research Essay Rubric

This document should be used in conjunction with the Legal Writing Checklist, and any criteria that appears on your assessment task. Continue reading

Research Plan Checklist

Your first research assessment – whether its an essay, a memorandum or some other task –  can be hard. Not only are you trying conform to new writing conventions unique to law, but you’re also expected to use and navigate legal databases that you may not be familiar with.

Thankfully however, you don’t need to tackle this task completely by yourself. The MLS library not only runs numerous research workshops, but they have also developed a nifty checklist to help guide you through the different steps of planning, writing, editing and ultimately submitting your first paper. Continue reading

Avoiding Procrastination

Everyone is capable of working like a fiend when the need arises. Unfortunately, most people only manage to unleash the hulking study-beast the night before an essay is due. For weeks, even months before the assessment is due, people are often held back by procrastination. You may even be procrastinating right now. There is no silver bullet for procrastination. At a certain point, it just comes down to really wanting to improve. Nevertheless, there are a few strategies that can help you to keep it at bay.

Long-Term Procrastination Strategies

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Research Essays – The Writing Process

The following materials are adapted from the Guide to Academic Success.

Your reader expects you to explain, clearly and succinctly, the current law and legal issues relevant to your topic. This work is called ‘exposition’. However, as a member of the legal community, your reader has access to the same sources that you do, and may already be familiar with many. So, while thorough research is essential, and while you must develop and demonstrate an accurate understanding of the current law relevant to the particular topic, a research essay requires more than a summary of the relevant legislation and judgments. Continue reading

Assignment Timelines

The following materials are adapted from the Legal Academic Writing website.

All good legal academic writing shares common attributes: it is clear and concise, well organized, logical and persuasive, purposeful and relevant, and supported by accurate and current legal authorities.

However, the process of writing, and markers’ expectations regarding presentation, vary significantly, depending on whether you have several weeks to prepare an assignment, or a few days or hours to answer an exam.


How long do you expect to spend preparing a 2,000 word hypothetical problem response? Or a 5,000 word research essay? Continue reading

Beginning Your Assignment – Writing a Zero Draft

Beginning an assignment can be the hardest part of the process. In addition to creating a schedule that encourages you to start writing and researching early, one powerful method for starting early and focusing your writing is the “Zero draft”. The process is simple:

  1. Engage in preliminary research for about a week. Develop a broad overview of your topic.
  2. Set a timer for anywhere up to an hour.
  3. As soon as the timer starts, begin writing. Do not stop writing until the time is up. You should write anything that you can think of, provided that it is related to the topic. Do not refer to your notes. The process is intended to be creative and generative – so don’t censor any ideas – you can delete them later if necessary.

Once you have written a zero draft, you can begin to rework it in a number of ways: Continue reading

Advanced Reading – Developing your Approach

As you progress through your degree, it is important that you continue to develop your reading skills. Fajans and Falk identify three stages of advanced reading:

  1. Reading for the explicit meaning of the text
  2. Reading for ‘unselfconscious response and self-aware reflection
  3. Synthesising apparently contradictory ideas of concepts that arise during the reading

Fajans and Falk argue that most students never advance beyond the first stage. This limits their understanding of texts to merely being able to identify the key elements – issues, reasoning, decision. Improving your reading will not only improve your understanding of the law, but also enable you to write stronger essays and exams.

Because of the rule of precedent, it is easy to forget that judicial decisions are simply a genre of persuasive writing, and can be analysed in much the same way as any other text. The following guide will provide a few methods for analysing both judicial decisions and articles. Continue reading