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Study information


Module titleDissertation
Module codeLAWM640
Academic year2023/4
Module staff

Professor Caroline Fournet (Lecturer)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks



Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

This module is compulsory for students on the LLM programmes and the MRes in Socio-Legal Research programme. It provides a valuable opportunity for you to gain experience in legal or socio-legal research, writing a dissertation on a particular legal or socio-legal topic of interest chosen by you and approved by your programme director.

You will be assigned an academic supervisor from the expertise available in the Law School, to match the proposed dissertation topic or your areas of interest. You will be given 3 research meetings with your supervisor during which they will guide your research and writing according to an individually agreed framework, but you are largely expected to determine your own deadlines and define your own work programme in order to meet the final submission deadline set by the Law School.

The module calls for excellent legal/socio-legal writing and research skills, personal discipline, and professional communication with the academic supervisor. For those of you who have not undertaken any large-scale legal research before, an introduction to the design and methodologies of legal research will be provided in Term 2. For those of you on the MRes programme, you are expected to draw on the grounding given in your core modules and any optional module relevant to your dissertation topic.

Module aims - intentions of the module

The aim of this module is to pursue, under the guidance of an academic supervisor, an individual programme of research on a topic within the scope of a named degree programme, approved by the programme director, applying appropriate research methodologies and drawing on appropriate materials. The module seeks to encourage and inspire deep and critical engagement with legal/socio-legal research and scholarship and the production of an original, substantial and significant contribution to legal/socio-legal knowledge as appropriate to your degree programme.

By taking this module, you will have the opportunity to develop an extensive knowledge of the law (and/or socio-legal research where appropriate) in your chosen research area, together with the skills and methodological tools to analyse, categorise and critically evaluate the law in an extended formal piece of legal or socio-legal writing. You will also have the opportunity to gain a clear understanding of the values of legal/socio-legal research in the development of the law in the UK and beyond.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Demonstrate deep and systematic knowledge and understanding of the law and legal/socio-legal research methods applicable to the project that you will have selected and constructed, building on prior legal/socio-legal knowledge, and using research skills and theoretical perspectives;
  • 2. Undertake complex critical evaluation of the main legal rules, institutions and procedure/methods relevant to the specific area of law/socio-legal study chosen for critical evaluation in the dissertation, using specialist literature and current research going beyond prior knowledge;

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 3. Demonstrate detailed and comprehensive knowledge and understanding of a range of legal/socio-legal concepts, values, principles, institutions and procedures, and the ability to evaluate systematically the relationships among them, as well as their limits;
  • 4. Show clear evidence of virtually autonomous research underpinning self-directed learning by selecting and integrating appropriate research methods for investigating, analysing and critically evaluating complex legal/socio-legal problems;
  • 5. Plan and structure analysis clearly and effectively at an advanced level by identifying and solving complex legal/socio-legal problems that require critical evaluation;

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 6. Manage relevant learning resources/ information/ learning strategies confidently and independently in order to develop own analyses and arguments at an advanced professional level;
  • 7. Communicate and engage in written debate effectively, confidently and autonomously with strict adherence to the values and principles of academic integrity in a manner appropriate to the discipline;
  • 8. Plan, clarify and undertake a range of research tasks confidently and independently, reflect critically on the learning process, structure and communication making use of feedback effectively.

Syllabus plan

Although the precise content and delivery of the module may vary, it is anticipated that the syllabus will cover research design, methodologies, writing skills and academic integrity to assist with the formation and development of a dissertation topic.

In addition, all students will have three individual research meetings with their appointed supervisor. Although the precise content of such meetings will vary according to the particular needs of each individual student, it is expected that the meetings will cover three important steps towards a successful dissertation: namely (1) devising adequate research question(s); (2) refining a structure; and (3) feedback on a sample chapter for advice on academic writing. In addition, students can liaise with their supervisors for ad hoc advice as and when required.

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities 63 x 2 hours interactive sessions: - Design and structure of a dissertation. - Research methodology. - Writing skills and techniques. All these sessions will cover good academic practice and academic integrity.
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activity33 x 1 hour research meetings. Each meeting is designed to guide the students on 3 important steps to a successful dissertation: 1. Devising adequate research question(s), 2. Refining a structure, and 3. Feedback on a sample chapter for advice on academic writing skills
Guided independent study591Independent study, with the help of the supervisor as and when needed. Such hours will be spent to carry out the necessary research as well as the writing up of the dissertation, a symbiotic process, under the guidance of the supervisor. Although the precise organisation of the work will differ for each student, it is expected that a student should spend: - 50 hours on devising the research question, - 50 hours on refining the structure and undertaking any fieldwork, - the rest divided equally among reading/analysing the material/data and writing up the dissertation.

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Comments and discussion of progress with supervisor N/A1-8Students will have 3 meetings with supervisors, during which they will receive oral and written comments on the task submitted for the meeting. During each meeting, the student and the supervisor will agree on the next task to be undertaken. Written comments on a sample chapter of the dissertation will be given.

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Dissertation 10012,000 words 1-8Written feedback (with oral feedback upon request)

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
DissertationDissertation (12,000 words) 1-8Resubmission by early January

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Lammasniemi Laura, Law Dissertations: A Step-by-Step Guide, 2nd ed., Routledge, 2021.
  • Salter, Michael and Mason, Julie, Writing Law Dissertations: An Introduction and Guide to the Conduct of Legal Research, Longman, 2007., Booth, Wayne C. et al., The Craft of Research, 4th ed., University of Chicago Press, 2016.

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources


Key words search

Dissertation law; dissertation socio-legal research

Credit value60
Module ECTS


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NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


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