5 Tips to Help You Improve Your Law Essays
Want to perfect your law essays? Improve your essay writing with these five tips:
1. Introductions are important
Your introduction is the first chance you get to impress your marker and convince them that you are a High Distinction student. A good introduction (1) sets the scene for the paper to come by providing some (brief) background information on the topic area; (2) provides a birds-eye view of the paper by signalling its scope; (3) outlines your key arguments, with a great degree of specificity; and (4) states your conclusion. Re-drafting your paper shortly before submission helps you put your best foot forward (it is only once you know what you have argued that you can effectively introduce your arguments!) For more tips on perfecting your Introduction, click here.
2. Subheadings are useful
Subheadings force you to be objective; to have an awareness of your essay’s content and how it ties together. What is the point of each of your sections? How do they systematically progress your argument? Draw these links out. Discrete subsections also remind you to signal the introduction of your key points (usually, the start of the section) and draw out the significance of your analysis for your thesis (usually, the end of the section).
3. Do not cut corners with your research
In terms of research, you need to read widely and you need to read deeply, and most importantly – you need to identify and analyse peer-reviewed journal articles. Good quality research not only helps you to develop perspective and figure out which author(s) and what view(s) are important to your argument, it also provides the foundation on which you develop your insights. And remember – while Google Scholar might turn up lots of search results (that may or may not be relevant, depending on the jurisdiction), it is a compliment but not a substitute for a database search through your Library Website.
4. Your opinion matters
When using secondary commentary, engage with your sources rather than present their conclusion as if it is your own. Outline a commentator’s point of view (Author X argues that…….) and then reflect: why does this matter? What is the significance of this for my thesis? Do I agree or disagree? Why? Bringing your point of view to the foreground helps you get depth in your analysis and provides opportunities to link the content back to your argument E.g. (This argument is persuasive because…. It shows…. [link to thesis])
5. Pay attention to the little things
High Distinction papers are High Distinction papers because they exhibit attention to detail and are extremely pleased to read and mark. When you have finished your paper, come back and read it through one more time with fresh eyes. Have you formatted your repeat references? Have you used capital letters for ‘High Court’? Are your footnotes all the same size and font? Are the case names you mention in-text, italicised? Getting the little things right puts the marker in a good mood to see you as you truly are: a student that has put in the work and deserves a good mark.
Dr Marie Hadley is a Lecturer at the Newcastle Law School, University of Newcastle, Australia who enjoys teaching legal writing and problem-solving skills. She teaches Undergraduate and Postgraduate students Contract Law, Intellectual Property Law and Internet Law.