University of Technology Sydney

777251 Research Project 1 (PG)

Warning: The information on this page is indicative. The subject outline for a particular session, location and mode of offering is the authoritative source of all information about the subject for that offering. Required texts, recommended texts and references in particular are likely to change. Students will be provided with a subject outline once they enrol in the subject.

Subject handbook information prior to 2021 is available in the Archives.

UTS: Law
Credit points: 6 cp
Result type: Grade and marks

There are course requisites for this subject. See access conditions.


This subject comprises the research and writing of a supervised thesis on an approved topic in law. Candidates must research and write a thesis of approximately 16,000 words (all inclusive) at a standard suitable for publication on a topic approved by UTS: Law. In most cases, the research project extends and develops research done in one or more of the elective subjects already undertaken, but in appropriate circumstances a candidate may undertake a new topic.

Students have the opportunity to critically analyse and evaluate a topic of law of their own choosing. Students develop their communication and research skills by writing a sustained and persuasive argument that demonstrates the ability to articulate legal issues, evaluate and synthesise research materials, and to think creatively and strategically. Students attend an initial workshop and engage in discussion on central aspects for the submission of a well-crafted thesis. This includes discussion of methodology; writing skills; integrity and time management. Students are supported through the process of writing the thesis by their academic supervisor who provides feedback on the progress of the thesis and student learning. Students also develop skills in self-management by undertaking self-directed work and learning, and by responding to and applying feedback.

Students are not permitted to enrol in the research project until written approval has been obtained from the subject coordinator. The research project is completed over two consecutive sessions. Candidates complete this subject in the first session of enrolment and 777252 Research Project 2 in the following session. The thesis is submitted on completion of 777252 Research Project 2. A final grade is not recorded against this subject until 777252 Research Project 2 is completed.

Subject learning objectives (SLOs)

Upon successful completion of this subject students should be able to:

1. Appraise an area of law and develop a research question which addresses a complex legal problem and defines the scope of the research.
2. Investigate, evaluate, justify and apply a research methodology which facilitates logical, original, persuasive and complex arguments in response to the research question.
3. Communicate critical thinking through analysing, evaluating and synthesising relevant research materials and effectively apply and integrate this into the argument in response to the research question and solutions to complex legal issues.
4. Be accountable independent researchers including exercising judgment with respect to using feedback to improve research, analysis and writing skills.
5. Clearly express reasoning, logically structure the argument and comply with academic writing and style requirements.

Course intended learning outcomes (CILOs)

This subject also contributes specifically to the development of the following graduate attributes which reflect the course intended learning outcomes:

  • Critical Analysis and Evaluation
    A capacity to think critically, strategically and creatively about non-adversarial dispute resolution processes, including the ability to identify and articulate complex issues, apply reasoning and research to generate appropriate responses to problems and engage in critical analysis (3.0)
  • Research Skills
    Well-developed cognitive and practical skills necessary to identify, research, evaluate and synthesise relevant factual, legal and policy issues and demonstrate intellectual and practical skills necessary to justify and interpret theoretical propositions, legal methodologies, conclusions and professional decisions. (4.0)
  • Communication and Collaboration
    Effective and appropriate academic and professional communication skills including:
    Highly effective use of the English language, to convey and comprehend, legal concepts and views, in relevant and appropriate modes and to different audiences;
    An ability to communicate to inform, analyse, report, evaluate, argue and persuade; and
    An ability to express and structure a sustained and logical argument (5.0)
  • Self management
    A high level of autonomy, adaptability, accountability and professionalism, and, the ability to implement appropriate self-management and lifelong learning strategies including:
    The ability to support personal and professional development by reflecting on and assessing their own capabilities and performance, making use of feedback as appropriate, and then developing and implementing strategies for improvement, making use of available resources and assistance as appropriate; and
    A capacity to adapt to and embrace change and a commitment to ongoing learning. (6.0)

Teaching and learning strategies

Strategy 1: Student Preparation: Prior to enrolling in the subject students must identify an appropriate academic supervisor and obtain that person’s agreement to supervise the thesis. Prior to attending the first formal workshop students must have made contact with their supervisor and send them a research proposal which includes the thesis question, a brief description of the research into the background and context of the topic, and a draft chapter breakdown of the thesis and a bibliography. The supervisor will provide feedback on the proposal which will enable students to commence researching and writing the thesis in a timely manner. In order to collaborate effectively on the thesis students should prepare for any communications with their supervisor during the teaching session. This preparation could include collating questions about areas of difficulty or uncertainty and sending draft chapters for feedback. Students are required to take part in a Coursework Research workshop (see strategy 2 below). Preparation for the workshop includes students reflecting upon their thesis topic and their expectations for the semester. Prior to attending the workshop students will review the UTS:Law Guide to Written Communication and the Australian Guide to Legal Citation (relevant edition). Students must do this preparation prior to the Workshop to reinforce their understanding of academic integrity from previous semesters and to ensure disclosure of any prior work in their research area. The Workshop will specifically revise any issues of concern identified by students as a result of this preparatory work. Students are encouraged to post questions on CANVAS and participate collaboratively in relevant forums.

Strategy 2: Participation in Coursework Research Workshop: This workshop is usually held in week one or two of the teaching period. Students will have the opportunity to clarify and refine their understanding of the procedural aspects of the supervision process. This involves discussion of the procedural rules surrounding supervision as specific to UTS:Law. Aspects which may be new to this type of arrangement for students will be discussed. For example, the concept of self-management in terms of the relationship they will have with their supervisor requires discussion and debate. Students will be required to debate the efficiency of approaches to their supervisor in terms of feedback; frequency of feedback; incorporating feedback; setting meeting dates and times and supervisor time frames. Further the formal requirements for thesis writing and submission will be noted such as word limits; presentation; extension request etc. Students will be required, under the guidance of academic staff at the workshop, to implement a timetable for self-managed learning for the session. This is critical to facilitate the self-management strategies required to fulfil this subject and undertake an individual piece of research. A panel of students who have previously completed the thesis are asked to come to discuss time management, writing techniques and supervision. Students will have the opportunity to ask the student panel and academic staff questions pertaining to any aspect of the research process.

Strategy 3: Feedback: Students are expected to communicate the progress of their thesis and solicit feedback from their supervisor throughout the teaching session. Students are required to send an outline of their thesis to the supervisor prior to enrolling in the subject so that the supervisor can provide timely feedback on the scope of the topic, the research question and methodology. Students collaborate with their supervisor to discuss relevant material, including currency and reliance on primary legal and secondary materials; refine their topic, research questions and methodology; develop a logical structure and persuasive and justifiable arguments; apply critical thinking to research material and legal issues; and how to comply with academic writing and style requirements. Students will receive feedback during the teaching session from their supervisor on an agreed basis. By applying the feedback received from supervisors students will develop their self-management and independent learning skills and improve their research, analytical and academic writing skills.

Strategy 4: Independent Learning: Self-management and self-directed work are a key part of learning in this subject. The skills involved in self-management are essential to legal practice and it is important that students develop these skills. Collaboration between the academic supervisor and student depends on the student’s ability to complete tasks, submit them in a timely manner and to solicit specific feedback. Strategies for self-management and self-directed work include, exercising judgment about the content of the thesis and being responsible for the progress of the thesis; managing time effectively and meeting deadlines; the ability to self-assess skills and knowledge, including identifying areas for improvement; soliciting and applying feedback; and the ability to monitor and implement strategies to maintain personal wellbeing. Students are responsible for seeking assistance from their supervisor or the subject coordinator if they encounter difficulty managing their time or the workload involved in writing the thesis.

Content (topics)

The research consists of an independent theoretical or doctrinal investigation of an approved topic in law. It is envisaged that the research thesis will build on existing abilities to write well-researched and critical essays, but goes beyond this in several fundamental ways as is apparent from the assessment criteria listed in the ‘Assessment’ section of the subject outline.


Assessment task 1: Research Thesis Progress


This task addresses the following subject learning objectives:

1, 2, 3 and 4

This task contributes specifically to the development of the following graduate attributes:

3.0, 4.0, 5.0 and 6.0

Weight: 100%

Maximum 3000 words (see further under 'Assessment Process')


Assessment Process:

During this subject students are expected to make satisfactory progress towards completing their dissertation. Satisfactory progress will be formally evaluated in Week 12 by the student’s supervisor. In addition to the supervisor’s assessment an independent assessment will be carried out by the subject coordinator (or another academic designated by the Subject Coordinator in cases where the Subject Coordinator feels the project topic is not within their field of knowledge).

Weight: 100%

Length: Maximum 3000 words IN TOTAL. This includes all headings, footnotes/endnotes (references and text), tables, bibliography.

Format: There is not set format for the document. However, it must address the following matters:

  • Topic. Identify the topic and the problem to be addressed. Provide an explanation of the background to the topic and situate the topic in the literature;
  • Outline the method which your paper will deploy in order to answer the problem posed. This includes an explanation of why the method chosen is the best method to address the problem and of how it will enable you to address the problem;
  • An account of progress to date and a timeline for completion of the thesis on time;
  • A preliminary bibliography;
  • Preliminary conclusions (if appropriate).

Criteria: The criteria for satisfactory progress of your Research Thesis reflect the objectives of the subject. These are listed again below and, specifically, your supervisor will be concerned to see whether and if so to what extent the draft thesis achieves the following five objectives:

  1. Develops a coherent research question which addresses a complex legal problem and defines the scope of the research (GA 3);
  2. Has identified an appropriate research methodology which facilitates a coherent, logical, persuasive and justifiable response to the research question (GA 3, 4);
  3. Has shown evidence of evaluating and synthesising relevant research materials and effectively integrating this into the argument (GA 3, 4, 5);
  4. Provided evidence of independent research and the use of feedback to improve research, analysis and writing skills (GA 4, 5, 6);
  5. Compliance with academic writing and style requirements including presentation of footnotes/endnotes and bibliography in accordance with the UTS:LAW Guide to Written Communication. Students must reference in accordance with AGLC 4 (GA 4, 5).

In addition, an overall assessment will be made as to whether the student will be able to produce the dissertation within the required timeline.

Assessment outcomes: The student will be afforded an opportunity to produce a dissertation.

Required texts

Recommended texts

Recommended Reading

The following are recommended references for legal research, method, writing and referencing in general:

Legal method and legal research

  • Wayne Booth, Gregory Colomb and Joseph Williams, The Craft of Research (Chicago Guides, 3rd ed, 2008)
  • Catriona Cook, Robin Creyke, Robert Geddes, David Hamer and Tristan Taylor, Laying Down the Law (LexisNexis, 9th ed, 2014)
  • Norman Denzin and Yvonne Lincoln (eds), The Landscape of Qualitative Research (Sage, 4th ed, 2012)
  • Tony Greenfield and Sue Greener (eds), Research Methods for Postgraduates (Wiley, 3rd ed, 2016)
  • Mark Israel and Iain Hay, Research Ethics for Social Scientists: between ethical conduct and regulatory compliance (Sage, 2006)
  • Simon Halliday and Patrick Schmidt, Conducting Law and Society Research: Reflections on Methods and Practices (Cambridge University Press, 2009)
  • Sue Milne and Kay Tucker, A Practical Guide to Legal Research (Lawbook Co, 2nd ed, 2010)
  • Mike McConville and Wing Hong Chui (eds), Research Methods for Law (Edinburgh University Press, 2007)
  • Keith Punch, Developing Effective Thesis Proposals (Sage, 2nd ed, 2006)
  • Gordon Rugg and Marian Petrie, A Gentle Guide to Research Methods (McGraw Hill, 2007)
  • Rob Watt and Francis Johns, Concise Legal Research (The Federation Press, 6th ed, 2009)

Legal writing

  • M Asprey, Plain Language for Lawyers (The Federation Press, 4th ed, 2010)
  • David Evans, Paul Gruba and Justin Zobel, How to Write a Better Thesis (Melbourne University Press, 3rd ed, 2012)
  • Steve Foster, How to Write Better Law Essays (Pearson, 3rd ed, 2012)
  • Terry Hutchinson, Researching and Writing in Law (Lawbook, 2010)
  • Ros Macdonald and Deborah Clark-Dickson, Clear and precise: writing skills for today’s lawyer (Thomson Reuters, 3rd ed, 2010)
  • Michael Meehan, Grammar for Lawyers (LexisNexis, 3rd ed, 2007)
  • Michael Salter and Julie Mason, Writing Law Dissertations: an introduction and guide to the conduct of legal research (Pearson, 2007)