Legal Dissertation: Research and Writing Guide

About this guide, video on choosing a topic, tools on westlaw, lexis and bloomberg, circuit splits, research methodologies, additional methodology resources, conducting a literature review, beginning research, writing style guides, citation guides, related guides.

Citation and Writing Resources

Legal Research Tutorials

Secondary Sources for Legal Research

Methods of Finding Cases

Methods of Finding Statutes

Current Awareness and Alerting Resources

Compiling State Legislative Histories

Locating International and Foreign Law Journals

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This guide contains resources to help students researching and writing a legal dissertation or other upper-level writing project. Some of the resources in this guide are directed at researching and writing in general, not specifically on legal topics, but the strategies and tips can still be applied.

The Law Library maintains a number of other guides on related skills and topics that may be of interest:

The Wells Library also maintains guides. A few that may be helpful for managing research can be found here:

Choosing a Topic

This video discusses tips and strategies for choosing a dissertation topic.

Note: this video is not specific to legal dissertation topics, but it may still be of interest as an overview generally.

The Bloomberg/BNA publication United States Law Week can be a helpful resource for tracking down the major legal stories of the day.  Log into Bloomberg Law, in the big search box, start typing United States Law Week and the title will appear in the drop down menu beneath the box. This publication provides coverage of top legal news stories, and in-depth "insight" features.

If you have a general idea of the area of law you wish to write about, check out the Practice Centers on Bloomberg. From the homepage, click the Browse link in the top left-hand corner. Then select Practice Centers and look for your area of law. Practice Centers are helpful because they gather cases, statutes, administrative proceedings, news, and more on the selected legal area.

Bloomberg has other news sources available as well. From the homepage, click the Browse link in the top left-hand corner. Then select News and Analysis, then select News or Analysis, and browse the available topics.

If you know what area of law you'd like to write about, you may find the Browse Topics feature in Lexis Advance helpful for narrowing down your topic. 

Log into Lexis Advance, click the Browse Topics tab, and select a topic.  If you don't see your topic listed, try using the provided search bar to see whether your topic is categorized as a sub-topic within this list. 

Once you click on a topic, a box pops up with several options.  If you click on Get Topic Document, you'll see results listed in a number of categories, including Cases, Legislation, and more.  The News and Legal News categories at the right end of the list may help you identify current developments of interest for your note.  Don't forget about the filtering options on the left that will allow you to search within your results, narrow your jurisdiction, and more.

Similar to Lexis Advance, Westlaw Edge has a Topics tab that may be helpful if you know what area of law you'd like to write about.

Log onto Westlaw Edge, and click on the Topics tab.  This time, you won't be able to search within this list, so if you're area is not listed, you should either run a regular search from the main search bar at the top or try out some of the topics listed under this tab - once you click on a topic, you can search within its contents.

What is great about the Topics in Westlaw Edge is the Practitioner Insights page you access by clicking on a topic.  This is an information portal that allows you quick access to cases, legislation, top news, and more on your selected topic.

In United States federal courts, a circuit split occurs whenever two or more circuit courts of appeals issue conflicting rulings on the same legal question. Circuit splits are ripe for legal analysis and commentary because they present a situation in which federal law is being applied in different ways in different parts of the country, even if the underlying litigants themselves are otherwise similarly situated. The Supreme Court also frequently accepts cases on appeal that involve these types of conflicted rulings from various sister circuits.

To find a circuit split on a topic of interest to you, try searching on Lexis and Westlaw using this method:

in the search box, enter the following: (circuit or court w/s split) AND [insert terms or phrases to narrow the search]

You can also browse for circuit splits on Bloomberg. On the Bloomberg homepage, in the "Law School Success" box, Circuit Splits Charts appear listed under Secondary Sources.

Other sources for circuit splits are American Law Reports (ALR) and American Jurisprudence (AmJur). These publications provide summaries of the law, point out circuit splits, and provide references for further research.

"Blawgs" or law-related blogs are often written by scholars or practitioners in the legal field.  Ordinarily covering current events and developments in law, these posts can provide inspiration for note topics.  To help you find blawgs on a specific topic, consider perusing the ABA's Blawg Directory or Justia's Blawg Search .

Research Methodology

Types of research methodologies.

There are different types of research methodologies. Methodology refers to the strategy employed in conducting research. The following methodologies are some of the most commonly used in legal and social science research.

Doctrinal legal research methodology, also called "black letter" methodology, focuses on the letter of the law rather than the law in action. Using this method, a researcher composes a descriptive and detailed analysis of legal rules found in primary sources (cases, statutes, or regulations). The purpose of this method is to gather, organize, and describe the law; provide commentary on the sources used; then, identify and describe the underlying theme or system and how each source of law is connected.

Doctrinal methodology is good for areas of law that are largely black letter law, such as contract or property law. Under this approach, the researcher conducts a critical, qualitative analysis of legal materials to support a hypothesis. The researcher must identify specific legal rules, then discuss the legal meaning of the rule, its underlying principles, and decision-making under the rule (whether cases interpreting the rule fit together in a coherent system or not). The researcher must also identify ambiguities and criticisms of the law, and offer solutions. Sources of data in doctrinal research include the rule itself, cases generated under the rule, legislative history where applicable, and commentaries and literature on the rule.

This approach is beneficial by providing a solid structure for crafting a thesis, organizing the paper, and enabling a thorough definition and explanation of the rule. The drawbacks of this approach are that it may be too formalistic, and may lead to oversimplifying the legal doctrine.


Comparative legal research methodology involves critical analysis of different bodies of law to examine how the outcome of a legal issue could be different under each set of laws. Comparisons could be made between different jurisdictions, such as comparing analysis of a legal issue under American law and the laws of another country, or researchers may conduct historical comparisons.

When using a comparative approach be sure to define the reasons for choosing this approach, and identify the benefits of comparing laws from different jurisdictions or time periods, such as finding common ground or determining best practices and solutions. The comparative method can be used by a researcher to better understand their home jurisdiction by analyzing how other jurisdictions handle the same issue. This method can also be used as a critical analytical tool to distinguish particular features of a law. The drawback of this method is that it can be difficult to find material from other jurisdictions. Also, researchers should be sure that the comparisons are relevant to the thesis and not just used for description.

This type of research uses data analysis to study legal systems. A detailed guide on empirical methods can be found here . The process of empirical research involves four steps: design the project, collect and code the data, analyze the data, determine best method of presenting the results. The first step, designing the project, is when researchers define their hypothesis and concepts in concrete terms that can be observed. Next, researchers must collect and code the data by determining the possible sources of information and available collection methods, and then putting the data into a format that can be analyzed. When researchers analyze the data, they are comparing the data to their hypothesis. If the overlap between the two is significant, then their hypothesis is confirmed, but if there is little to no overlap, then their hypothesis is incorrect. Analysis involves summarizing the data and drawing inferences. There are two types of statistical inference in empirical research, descriptive and causal. Descriptive inference is close to summary, but the researcher uses the known data from the sample to draw conclusions about the whole population. Causal inference is the difference between two descriptive inferences.

Two main types of empirical legal research are qualitative and quantitative.

Quantitative, or numerical, empirical legal research involves taking information about cases and courts, translating that information into numbers, and then analyzing those numbers with statistical tools.

Qualitative, or non-numerical, empirical legal research involves extracting  information from the text of court documents, then interpreting and organizing the text into categories, and using that information to identify patterns.

Drafting The Methodology Section

This is the part of your paper that describes the research methodology, or methodologies if you used more than one. This section will contain a detailed description of how the research was conducted and why it was conducted in that way. First, draft an outline of what you must include in this section and gather the information needed.

Generally, a methodology section will contain the following:

Be sure that you have clearly defined the reasoning behind the chosen methodology and sources.

Literature Review

The literature review provides an examination of existing pieces of research, and serves as a foundation for further research. It allows the researcher to critically evaluate existing scholarship and research practices, and puts the new thesis in context. When conducting a literature review, one should consider the following: who are the leading scholars in the subject area; what has been published on the subject; what factors or subtopics have these scholars identified as important for further examination; what research methods have others used; what were the pros and cons of using those methods; what other theories have been explored.

The literature review should include a description of coverage. The researcher should describe what material was selected and why, and how those selections are relevant to the thesis. Discuss what has been written on the topic and where the thesis fits in the context of existing scholarship. The researcher should evaluate the sources and methodologies used by other researchers, and describe how the thesis different.

The following video gives an overview of conducting a literature review.

Note: this video is not specific to legal literature, however it may be helpful as a general overview.

Not sure where to start? Here are a few suggestions for digging into sources once you have selected a topic.

Research Guides

Research guides are discovery tools, or gateways of information. They pull together lists of sources on a topic. Some guides even offer brief overviews and additional research steps specifically for that topic. Many law libraries offer guides on a variety of subjects. You can locate guides by visiting library websites, such as this Library's site , the Law Library of Congress , or other schools like Georgetown . Some organizations also compile research guides, such as the American Society of International Law . Utilizing a research guide on your topic to generate an introductory source list can save you valuable time.

Secondary Sources

It is often a good idea to begin research with secondary sources. These resources summarize, explain, and analyze the law. They also provide references to primary sources and other secondary sources. This saves you time and effort, and can help you quickly identify major themes under your topic and help you place your thesis in context.

Encyclopedias provide broad coverage of all areas of the law, but do not go in-depth on narrow topics, or discuss differences by jurisdiction, or  include all of the pertinent cases. American Jurisprudence ( AmJur ) and Corpus Juris Secundum ( CJS ) have nationwide coverage, while the Indiana Law Encyclopedia focuses on Indiana state law. A number of other states also have their own state-specific encyclopedias.

American Law Reports ( ALR ) are annotations that synopsize various cases on narrow legal topics. Each annotation covers a different topic, and provides a leading or typical case on the topic, plus cases from different jurisdictions that follow different rules, or cases where different facts applying the same rule led to different outcomes. The annotations also refer to other secondary sources.  

Legal periodicals include several different types of publications such as law reviews from academic institutions or organizations, bar journals, and commercial journals/newspapers/newsletters. Legal periodicals feature articles that describe the current state of the law and often explore underlying policies. They also critique laws, court decisions, and policies, and often advocate for changes. Articles also discuss emerging issues and notify the profession of new developments. Law reviews can be useful for in-depth coverage on narrow topics, and references to primary and other secondary sources. However, content can become outdated and researchers must be mindful of biases in articles. 

Treatises/Hornbooks/Practice Guides are a type of secondary source that provides comprehensive coverage of a legal subject. It could be broad, such as a treatise covering all of contract law, or very narrow such as a treatise focused only on search and seizure cases. These sources are good when you have some general background on the topic, but you need more in-depth coverage of the legal rules and policies. Treatises are generally well organized, and provide you with finding aids (index, table of contents, etc.) and extensive footnotes or endnotes that will lead you to primary sources like cases, statutes, and regulations. They may also include appendices with supporting material like forms. However, treatises may not be updated as frequently as other sources and may not cover your specific issue or jurisdiction.

Citation and Writing Style

Yale Law School

The Ph.D. in Law Degree

The Ph.D. in Law degree program is designed to prepare J.D. graduates for careers as legal scholars and teachers through a doctoral program aimed at the production of a substantial body of academic research and writing under the close supervision of a three-member faculty dissertation committee. Unlike programs designed for students who wish to learn about law from the disciplinary perspectives of the social sciences or the humanities, the Ph.D. in Law is directed at students who wish to pursue advanced studies in law from the perspective of the law. This program offers emerging scholars an opportunity to contribute to the development of law as an academic field, and it provides an alternate pathway into law teaching alongside existing routes such as fellowships, advanced degrees in cognate fields, legal practice, and clerkships.

Because our entering Ph.D. students will have already completed their J.D. degrees, the anticipated course of study toward the Ph.D. in Law degree is three academic years and two summers in residence. In their first two semesters, Ph.D. students will enroll in courses designed to help them acquire the background and research skills needed to complete a dissertation in their field of interest and to prepare them for qualifying examinations that test the depth and breadth of the literacies and skills they have acquired. During their second year, students will prepare a dissertation prospectus and begin work on a dissertation. The dissertation may take the form of either three law review articles or a book-length manuscript and will make up a portfolio of writing that will be essential for success in the job market. Ph.D. students will also gain experience in the classroom, and receive the full support of Yale Law School’s Law Teaching Program , which has had remarkable success in placing graduates in tenure-track positions at leading law schools.

Ph.D. students receive a full-tuition waiver, a health award for health insurance coverage, and a stipend to cover their year-round living expenses, as well as support for participation in national and international conferences.

Applications for admission to the Ph.D. in Law program are available starting on August 15. The deadline for submission of all materials is December 15. Applicants to the Ph.D. in Law program must complete a J.D. degree at a U.S. law school before they matriculate and begin the Ph.D. program. Any questions about the program may be directed to Gordon Silverstein, Assistant Dean for Graduate Programs, at [email protected] .

Watch Gordon Silverstein, Assistant Dean for Graduate Programs, describe the Ph.D. program at Yale Law School.

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Writing a Law Dissertation - what is expected?

4428 words (18 pages) Law Dissertation Help Guide

25th Aug 2022 Law Dissertation Help Guide Reference this In-house law team

Writing a Law Dissertation and what is expected

The following notes are intended to provide the student with an overview of what is expected, or required, in relation to undertaking/completing a dissertation, and to assist the student avoid some of the inevitable confusion that surrounds the commencement of a dissertation. However, it is also assumed that these notes will be readily superseded as students achieve sufficient ‘independent’ momentum and understanding.

The rationale for this document

My own experience of helping students with dissertation projects  (together with supporting anecdotal evidence) suggests that a supervisor’s initial contact/first meeting, whether with an MBA, MA or MSc student, frequently results in a commonly occurring pattern of relatively fundamental queries and questions. This document, therefore, is intended to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the initial contact/first meeting between the academic supervisor and the student, and to provide an agenda for subsequent meetings.

“Facts are always convincing, it is the conclusions drawn from the facts that need to be questioned!” Sherlock Holmes .

The first/early meeting(s) with a supervisor

The first meeting between a supervisor and a student usually, perhaps necessarily, focuses on the proposed content of a dissertation, rather than the regulations or administrative process – understandably, supervisors tend to find the proposed topic more interesting than the administrative process. It is also possible that supervisors will not be familiar with the regulations or the administrative process. Equally, supervisors often assume, sometimes incorrectly, that students will have read and understood any pre-commencement documentation, prior to their first meeting.

Despite these uncertainties, and the inevitable need for some early ‘manoeuvring’ and ‘clarification’, the first meeting is often very influential in determining the subsequent direction and focus of the entire dissertation. Students are advised, therefore, to thoroughly prepare for their first meeting with their supervisor and not to just ‘let it happen’.

It would also be expedient for the student to assess the ‘availability’ of the supervisor, particularly in the event of the student experiencing a serious difficulty (a crisis) that cannot wait until the next routine meeting.

Approving draft chapters

Don’t expect a supervisor to routinely read/approve draft chapters, especially prior to a supervisor/student meeting, particularly if the chapter(s) might be revised before the meeting.

The changing relationship between supervisor and student

Students should appreciate that their relationship with their supervisor will necessarily change/evolve from tutor, and then to mentor, and then, finally, to examiner. The fundamental requirements of a dissertation are that it should involve the student in ‘sustained independent study’ and that the dissertation, as submitted, is ‘substantially the student’s own work’. Clearly, the supervisor has a responsibility to ensure that these ‘fundamentals’ are not compromised. In other words, the student should appreciate that he or she will achieve a more sustainable relationship with their supervisor if they seek discussion with their supervisor, rather than simply asking ‘what shall I do?’ or even ‘is what I’ve done O.K?’

The proposal

The proposal is a blueprint of what you intend to do and why it would be useful (to your sponsor), if you did. It will be used to ascertain if what you propose is feasible and viable in relation to the expectations of the relevant university. The proposal must contain a substantial introduction (a first draft of chapter 1, perhaps – see below) and clearly stated objectives and outcomes. The more detail you provide the more useful will be the feedback from your academic supervisor.

This ‘blueprint’ will set in motion 12 months, or more, of work.

It is, therefore, unlikely that a one-page outline will be sufficient.

a one-page outline is simply not sufficient.

“A child of five could understand this… send someone to get a child of five!”

Groucho Marks

Resourcing the dissertation

Do not guess (speculate) about what resources or sponsor’s support is available to you – find out. Don’t assume that you will magically acquire the necessary resources or information to complete your dissertation at the eleventh hour (Harry Potter is fiction). Some dissertations are considerably more difficult than others, simply because ‘key informant’ access and availability were not adequately considered at the proposal stage. Remember that whatever you do for ‘proposal’ purposes, can be incorporated into your dissertation – work done is work done.

The more detailed the proposal, the more likely it is that you will find a suitable (the most appropriate) supervisor. Supervisors don’t like getting involved in something that they might regret later.

write a proposal to interest and excite a potential supervisor

how many chapters?

Use five or more chapters of equal length, suggested as follows:

Introduction, literature review, methodology, results and discussion, conclusions and outcomes (recommendations). It is important that all chapters are about the same length. In other words, the methodology chapter is no less important than the results chapter etc. Write about 10-15% more words than stipulated – because everyone else will write too much and your dissertation will look ‘light’ if you don’t.

five 5000+ word chapters

The introduction (chapter 1)

Use the introduction chapter (chapter 1) to set the scene. The introduction is particularly important to help ‘one time readers’ to quickly and easily understand and appreciate what the dissertation is about. Use a short case study and/or diagrams and/or anecdotal examples to simplify the introduction as much as possible. In this chapter, some general speculation is permissible if it provides a clearer explanation of why you’ve chosen this project (to solve this problem) rather than some other project (problem).

The introduction chapter should conclude with the words…

“and therefore my objectives are”……..

ensure your objectives are derived from your ‘introduction’

The introduction chapter should contain sufficient clarity to enable the one-time-reader to easily appreciate what the dissertation objectives are, even if not formally stated – although dissertation objectives should always be formally stated.

The literature review (chapter 2)

“…more has been written about Business Management than is actually known.”

David Farmer

Emeritus Professor, University of Wales, March 1995.

The primary purpose of the ‘review of literature’ chapter is for you to ascertain, and to demonstrate to others, that you are not re-inventing the wheel. In other words, it is not acceptable to do no more than rediscover what others have already discovered – the onus is on the student to demonstrate that the wheel has at least been ‘improved’.

Use existing knowledge to further knowledge

Choose 8-10 journal articles to review.

Generally, scientific journal articles have more academic credibility than books. Although books provide useful background, journal articles more easily imply the depth of understanding that your dissertation needs to achieve. Scientific journal articles, therefore, are ultimately the most useful. Although it might be necessary to at least browse a dozen or so journals and many dozens of articles, it is better to identify, and discuss in depth, no more than 8-10 journal articles for literature review purposes. Other interesting and relevant but discarded journal articles can be listed in the bibliography to indicate that you’ve extensively searched (researched) the literature.

The methodology (chapter 3)

This is the most important chapter but also the most difficult to write. A methodology is not just a statement that chronicles what you did. Issues surrounding research methodologies are extremely complex. It can be a difficult task, for both academic supervisor and student, to determine to what extent students need to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of research methodology – discuss this with your academic supervisor. Generally, students should decide whether their dissertation is to be under-pinned by a quantitative or qualitative methodology. Don’t try to use both methodologies – the potential benefits are not worth the added confusion.

For a useful (initial) discussion about methodology see:

Most business management dissertations use a qualitative methodology. A qualitative methodology often primarily involves key respondent interview data. A qualitative methodology can seem, at first, an easy (soft) option, but it is always very time-consuming, and it can be more difficult to persuade an ‘examiner’ that your dissertation’s outcomes are reliable and credible.

It should be appreciated that you (the student) will, most probably, rapidly become more ‘expert’ than the supervisor, and others, in relation to the specific problem being explored and discussed in the dissertation (especially if a qualitative methodology is used). This means that a supervisor might be confronted with an assertion that black has been discovered to be white. The primary purpose of the methodology chapter is to describe an appropriate method (a formula) for solving ‘the problem’ being investigated – a method that is generally understood to provide ‘correct’ answers. This means that examiners and others can approve the methodology ‘formula’ and by implication, approve your assertion that ‘black is white’, without having to independently repeat your investigation (your experiment). In other words, your conclusions (your solution) are less likely to be challenged or disputed, if your methodology chapter is credibly persuasive and thoughtful.

Although the dissertation is not an opportunity for the student to write down what they think they know, the student should acknowledge that what they know (prior learning) will significantly influence what they (subsequently) learn.

In a dynamic environment, results and discussion are similar to creating a photograph of a moving automobile. Even if a technologically advanced camera is used and the photograph is in focus and correctly exposed, it only depicts where the automobile was in the past, not where it is now or where it will be in the future.

Lei, Hitt and Bettis (1996), Dynamic Core Competencies… Journal of Management, 22(4), pages 549-570 (adapted).

The results and discussion (chapter 4)

Generally, your results will involve the presentation of data that was not (and is not) widely available from existing (published) sources. In other words, data that, it could be argued (and you may need to), did not exist until you created it. The understanding needed to ‘solve’ the problem being investigated must be directly, and solely, derived from the results chapter/the data.

However, it is also appropriate, in this chapter, to use the literature to discuss and interpret the primary data in respect of its significance and relevance to the ‘research objectives’. In many respects, the results and discussion chapter (chapter 4) provides ‘the facts’ from which the conclusions and outcomes are derived. Inadequate data must result in inadequate ‘outcomes’.

The conclusion and outcomes (recommendations) (chapter 5)

In some respects, this chapter seeks (needs) to present the reader with a ‘summation’ of what was ‘achieved’ in the previous chapters. This chapter often chronicles the most significant content of previous chapters. However, this chapter is also an opportunity for the researcher to integrate the content from the other chapters into a synthesised ‘final’ whole. This means that the ‘conclusions and outcomes’ chapter must be a stand-alone chapter that contributes far more to the overall dissertation than simply a synopsis of previous chapters. Indeed, many would argue that this chapter is easily the most important because it provides the answer to the problem being investigated – other chapters are merely contributory to the outcomes chapter (it could be argued).

This chapter (or possibly in a subsequent chapter) should also discuss whether the ‘research was successfully completed including, in the student’s opinion, the reasons for the success or the failure. It is also entirely appropriate for the student to ‘disclose’ to the reader, any significant milestones in their understanding, awareness and appreciation. In other words, the student should discuss, and explore, the benefits (to them) of undertaking and completing a research dissertation/project. This could/should take the form of a personal statement that is both informative and insightful. This statement can also serve to usefully indicate the student’s progression from ‘beginner’ to ‘finisher’ and should reflect both the ‘exit’ ability/awareness and maturity of the student.

It should also be appreciated that the academic supervisor may need to ‘defend’ your dissertation with both the second marker and the external examiner, to achieve the grade/mark that the academic supervisor believes is appropriate. However, the supervisor is usually more ‘informed’ than the other examiners in relation to the student’s commitment, enthusiasm and achievement. This ‘personal statement’, therefore, can also serve to ‘personalise’ the student’s overall achievement and provide all the examiners with a more equal understanding of what you’ve accomplishment, and in what (adverse) circumstances.


Write as much as you can as soon as you can.

As you write, amendments to content and structure will become apparent – often as a result of the highly productive exercise of arguing with yourself as you write (playing with the words).

Say what you’re going to say, say it, and then say what you’ve said

Throughout your dissertation, adopt the “say what you’re going to say, say it, and then say what you’ve said” approach. This applies to each chapter, as well as the whole document.

Using a storyline

Help the reader to quickly absorb and understand the chapters by devising a unifying theme (a storyline) that is common to all chapters.

Be suggestive!

Use language that acknowledges that you might not be ‘entirely’ correct in any assertion that you offer the reader (write with humility). For example, use phrases such as; this suggests that, it would seem, the probability is, the available evidence indicates, it could be argued that etc.

Know the rules if you want to win

A dissertation has some similarity with a game. You need to understand the rules if you want to play (and win).

The most important readers will only read your script once

The most significant people involved in the game (apart from the academic supervisor) are the external examiner(s) and the 2nd reader. Remember that these individuals will only read your script once. Your script must, therefore, be entirely coherent and meaningful to someone reading it for the first time.

Match objectives with outcome

Objectives and intended outcomes should be included in the ‘dissertation proposal’ document – this provides early direction and facilitates initial discussion with the supervisor. However, it is inevitable that a dissertation will be ‘judged’ to ascertain whether the stated objectives have been achieved. It is important, therefore, that the dissertation objectives reflect what was actually achieved, rather than what was ‘envisaged’ or intended in the proposal document.

Do not speculate – keep your personal baggage in the closet

Generally, the dissertation must NOT contain speculation. This includes your personal opinions, no matter how informed or knowledgeable you think you are. It is possible that YOU have particular/special knowledge that, to some extent, is why you’ve decided to choose a particular dissertation topic/theme, rather than another. However, it is not considered appropriate for a researcher to be a primary source of ‘evidence’ (primary data) to his or her own research/investigation.

suggestion ‘access’ to an abundance of key informants is often the ‘critically’ importance requirement for a successful dissertation.

A chronicle of what you do (or did) for your employer is not enough

A satisfactory dissertation is unlikely to be an essay that simply chronicles the work you do for your employer/sponsor firm – this includes an essay about a work problem together with a speculative suggestion of how the problem might, in theory, be solved.

Truth or perception

It is important to appreciate that it is often (nearly always) more important to understand what people in organisations believe to be true, rather than what is actually true. Indeed, students who rely on key informant interview data are exploring the respondent’s perceptions of what is true, rather than what is true. As a consequence, it might be argued that truth is what people perceive to be true.

ensure that you help your supervisor to help you

Do your best to help the supervisor to help you. A supervisor may inadvertently offer inappropriate advice because he or she may misunderstand, or not be aware of, what difficulties or problems you are experiencing.

don’t try to accomplish too much

A successful dissertation is likely to be a detailed and comprehensive analysis of a little, rather than a generalised overview of a lot.

most students attempt far more than can be achieved.

The role of serendipity

Serendipity is the facility of making fortunate discoveries by accident, and was coined by Horace Walpole, from the Persian fairytale The Three Princes of Serendip, in which the heroes possess this ability. In other words, successful knowledge acquisition often involves chance and good fortune. Luck and good fortune are more likely if the student is consistently inquisitive and enquiring.

Choosing a supervisor

Although it is desirable that a supervisor is thoroughly familiar with the subject or topic that is being researched, it is often decisively more important that the supervisor is familiar with the intended methodology and has an enthusiasm for supervision. The ultimate subject or topic of a dissertation is often not the subject or topic that was initially envisaged in the student’s proposal document. It is less important than is often assumed, therefore, that a supervisor with particular specialist knowledge is recruited. Indeed, it could be argued that selecting a ‘specialist knowledge’ supervisor might limit the student’s opportunity to develop his or her own ideas and themes.

Praise and criticism

In the early stages of a supervisory relationship, it is easy to destroy a student’s self-confidence by criticism, or give him or her a false sense of confidence by too much praise. It is a difficult line to follow and, sometimes, the supervisor will get it wrong. Students should cautiously consider both the criticism and the praise that they receive.

Time management

Regrettably, the most carefully calculated work schedule is seldom (never) maintained. Indeed, the consequences of ‘falling behind’ can result in unnecessary and unhelpful anxiety. Simply, a dissertation cannot be ‘scheduled’. Knowledge acquisition and understanding seldom occur to comply with pre-determined work schedules. However, students must be determined to complete their dissertation within a specified time. Without this ‘determination’, it is likely that you will never finish. The dissertation will consume as much time as you have.

If you think you have forever, it will take forever.

Comparative analysis

It is often expedient for students to adopt a study doctrine that could be referred to as comparative analysis. This involves examining a series of separate, although related, procedures, processes, situations, or, perhaps, scenarios. The necessary rigour of the dissertation, as well as the quality of its outcomes (the conclusions and recommendations), is achieved as a direct consequence of the process of comparative analysis. The dissertation becomes, therefore, a series of relatively short, and more manageable, case studies or case histories, rather than a single complex whole involving, necessarily, extremely detailed data and exhaustive analysis of a single event. Comparative analysis is a valid and accepted procedure for acquiring knowledge and understanding, especially in relation to problems that would otherwise be too complex to be manageable

Note, however, that the individual cases or examples, need to be linked by a single theme or concept that is encapsulated within the dissertation title, and the stated objectives of the dissertation.

Although ‘comparative analysis’ is a useful means of managing the apparent complexity of the dissertation process, it is essential to discuss its use with an (your) academic supervisor.

Plagiarism and collusion

A dissertation is intended to involve the student in a sustained period of independent study. However, it is also expected that students will both use ‘informants’ (and other primary data sources) and the published literature (and other secondary data sources). To comply with very strict university regulations regarding plagiarism and collusion, students must always acknowledge the source(s) of all data, information and ideas that are not entirely the result of their own independent work. In other words, it is entirely acceptable (required and expected) to use other people’s thoughts and ideas, as long as the origin of those thoughts and ideas are properly acknowledged. This form of ‘acknowledgement’ is known as citing. Various methods of ‘citing’ exist. It is important that whatever method is used, it is used consistently throughout the dissertation.

In your text cite as follows:

There is incontrovertible evidence that engineers know little about business and management (Jean Lee, 1992).

Jean Lee (1992) refers to “incontrovertible evidence that engineers know little about business and management”.

If you are citing a book, include relevant page numbers.

Different expectations of sponsor and university

It must be acknowledged that, for most students, the requirement of the dissertation project is that it should be of relevance and interest to the student’s sponsoring firm. However, the outcome expectations of a sponsor and an academic institution may differ significantly. The student must endeavour to meet both expectations. This might mean that different reporting styles (different documents) are used to adequately comply with the expectations of both sponsor and university.

Commercial or military restricted data

Quite obviously, students cannot undertake a project that cannot be properly reported and assessed because it includes commercial or military restricted data. However, students often discard good projects because they considerably over-estimate the degree of ‘sensitivity’ that their dissertation involves.

To some extent, if your dissertation topic cannot be subsequently (on completion) ‘publicised’ to a wide audience, it may not be the best choice of topic.

Journal publication

For a variety of reasons, students should always seek to publish their research findings (ideas and conclusions) in an appropriate academic scientific journal, if it achieves the necessary level of quality and originality. Discuss this ‘opportunity’ with your academic supervisor.

However, if it is confirmed that the dissertation needs a commercial or military restricted classification, then it is acceptable, for example, to code data to obscure the identities of firms and individuals (firm A, respondent B etc.). It might also be possible to limit the circulation of the dissertation report to a ‘need to know’ group, involving the supervisor, 2nd reader and the external examiner. For more information about projects that involve commercial or military restricted or sensitive information, contact the project administrator, industrial advisor or academic supervisor

The appendices

Remember that the appendices will not be read by anyone other than you. Don’t hide important results or data in an appendix. The appendix should not be included in the word count.

Cite This Work

To export a reference to this article please select a referencing stye below:

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Law Dissertation Topics

Published by Alaxendra Bets at January 9th, 2023 , Revised On January 9, 2023


Law dissertations can be demanding because of the need to find relevant regulations, cases, and data to address the research problem successfully. It is of utmost importance to critically examine facts before framing the  research questions .

Selection of the most appropriate legal terms and legal authorities, whether online or in print, can be challenging especially if you have not tackled a law dissertation project before.

To help you select an intriguing law  dissertation  topic,  our expert writers have suggested some issues in various areas of law, including trust law, EU law, family law, employment and equality law, public law, tort law, intellectual property rights, commercial law, evidence, and criminal law, and human rights and immigration law.

These topics have been developed by PhD-qualified writers of our team , so you can trust to use these topics for drafting your dissertation.

Review step by step guide on how to write your own dissertation  here.

You may also want to start your dissertation by requesting  a brief research proposal  from our writers on any of these topics, which includes an  introduction  to the topic,  research question , aim and objectives ,  literature review  along with the proposed  methodology  of research to be conducted.  Let us know  if you need any help in getting started.

Check our  dissertation examples to get an idea of  how to structure your dissertation .

Review the full list of dissertation topics for 2022 here.

2022 Law Dissertation Topics

Topic 1: the role of international criminal laws in reducing global genocide.

Research Aim: This study aims to find the role of international criminal laws in reducing global genocide. It will be an exploratory study identifying the explicit and implicit effects of international criminal laws on the worldwide genocide. It will analyse different incidents of international genocide and find out how international criminal laws played a positive role to reduce these incidents. Lastly, it will recommend possible changes in the international criminal laws to effectively mitigate global genocide. And it will be done by comparing criminal laws of world-leading powers to reduce genocide.

Topic 2: Impact of Anti-Racism Employment Laws on Organisational Culture- A Comparative Study on the Anti-Racism Employment Laws in the US and Canada

Research Aim: This research aims to find the impact of anti-racism employment laws on the organisational culture in the US and Canada in a comparative analysis. It will identify the change in employees’ behaviour after implementing anti-racism laws. Moreover, it will find whether employees gleefully welcomed these laws or showed resistance. And how do these laws affect the organisations’ performance that strictly implemented them?

Topic 3: Globalization, international business transactions, and commercial law- A perspective from literature.

Research Aim: Students and practitioners can find the law of international business transactions as a subfield within a broader field of international commercial law to be somewhat amorphous.

This study will explain the impact of globalization on international business transactions and commercial law by establishing some necessary links between the study of transnational business law and related fields of international studies. This study also aims to address theories about foreign business regulation, such as the idea that it is free of power politics. For the collection of data existing literature will be studied. And the methodology of this research will rely on existing previous literature.

Topic 4: Investigating the impact of competition law on the businesses in the UK- Post Brexit

Research Aim: This study aims to investigate the impact of competition laws on businesses in the Post-Brexit UK. The proposed study will not only analyze the performance of the businesses with the current competition laws. But also analyze the impact of possible changes in competition laws on the businesses in the post-Brexit UK. And it will also incorporate the possible difference of changes in competition laws in deal, no-deal, hard deal, and soft deal scenarios. This way of individually analyzing the difference of competition laws due to the status of the UK’s deal with the EU will give better insights into how businesses will be affected by these laws in the post-Brexit UK.

Topic 5: A comparison between Islamic and contemporary laws against rape. Which law is the most effective in preventing this horrific crime?

Research Aim: Since several years, marital and non-marital relations in Muslim majority countries have been a source of controversy. Under Islamic law, it is strictly forbidden for a Muslim, or even non-Muslim to engage in illicit sexual relations with the opposite gender under any situation. The current study will help us understand the concepts presented in Islamic laws about rape cases. In this context, a comparative analysis of Islamic and contemporary law will be explained. It will also identify efficient and effective strategies to prevent this horrific crime.

Law Dissertation Topics 2021

Topic 1: the legal implications of the covid-19 pandemic on canadian immigration and the way forward..

Research Aim: This study will focus on how the Canadian government benefits from resources accrued from immigration, the impact of COVID-19 on Canadian Immigration, the current legislation on immigration, the effects of COVID-19 on the immigration law, the possible amendments that could help cushion the impact and the way forward.

Topic 2: Effect of COVID-19 on the United States Immigration policies; an assessment of International Legal agreements governing pandemic disease control and the way forward.

Research Aim: This research will focus on the pandemic’s effect on immigration policies in the United States. It also suggests the required steps based on the laws that regulate government acts during an outbreak of a pandemic.

Topic 3: Creating legal policies in preparedness for the global pandemic; lessons from COVID-19 on Canadian immigration policies.

Research Aim: This research will focus on how the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world and how most countries seemed unprepared. Historical background of the flu pandemic can also be made to assess how the world overcame the pandemic. And the need for the Canadian government or any other country you wish to choose can prepare for a global pandemic by creating legal policies that could help prepare ahead for such a period, such as policies on scientific research and funding.

Topic 4: The need for uniformity of competition law and policy in Gulf Cooperation Council Countries; An approach to the European Union standard.

Research Aim: This research will focus on the Gulf Cooperation Countries and their current legislation on competition law and its implications. Countries under the European Union’s competition law, the legal implications, and the need to consider such a part.

Topic 5: The need for competition law and policy enforcement; An analysis of the Gulf Cooperation Council Countries.

Research Aim: This research focuses on the Gulf Cooperation Council Countries’ competition laws and their enforceability. It analyses the benefits of enforcing the competition law and looks at the European Union uniformed laws and its benefits. It looks into the various countries, how the competition law currently works, and how it can affect each country’s economy in a better way or adequately enforced.

Topic 6: Provisions of the law on rape, the need to expand its coverage on the misuse of its provisions, and false accusations.

Research Aim: This research will focus on the law’s present provisions on rape and rape victims and the recent false accusations.

Topic 7: Summary dismissal of workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, the legal implications under the labour law, and the way forward. The case study of Nigeria

Research Aim: This research will focus on the statistics of people who were summarily dismissed during the COVID-19 pandemic based on natural occurrences, provisions of the law against summary dismissal, and its enforcement, and how this can be cushioned against future events. The need to expand the labour law to cover similar situations for the protection of workers.

Topic 8: A legal assessment of the settlement of international disputes through the peaceful process and its effectiveness

Research Aim: This research focuses on the mode of dispute settlement in the international community, assessment of international laws and treaties on peaceful settlement of conflicts among countries of member states, the methods of dispute settlements, its strengths and weaknesses, and the need to improve the current mechanisms of peaceful settlement in the international community.

Topic 9: The protection of minority shareholders and the majority shareholders' power in Companies, a critical analysis of the Nigerian Companies and Allied Matters Act provisions.

Research Aim: This research will focus on the law’s provisions on protecting minority shareholders in companies and the majority shareholders’ power. How effective are these provisions in protecting the minorities against the management of the majority shareholders and the way forward

COVID-19 Law Research Topics

Topic 1: law during the time of the coronavirus crisis.

Research Aim:  This study will analyse the role of law and order during COVID-19.

Topic 2: Legal policies and issues during COVID-19

Research Aim: This study will focus on the legal policies issued during the COVID-19 across the world. Challenges faced by the public and government during the lockdown will also be addressed.

Topic 3: The role of cops during COVID-19

Research Question: This study will highlight the role of cops in combatting COVID-19 and ensuring public health safety. It’ll also focus on the risk and challenges they come across and how to overcome those challenges.

Topic 4: Justice during COVID-19

Research Aim: The entire world has been paused during the lockdown situation. This study will investigate the mode of trials, court sessions, and justice during the coronavirus pandemic.

Topic 5: Health guidelines and social distancing

Research Aim: This study will reveal the WHO’s health and safety guidelines.

Topic 6: Guidelines for transport, educational institutions, business sectors, and hospitals during the Coronavirus pandemic

Research Aim: This study will focus on reviewing the guidelines issued by the government for various public gathering places such as transport, educational institutions, business sectors, and hospitals during the Coronavirus pandemics.

Topic 1: World Bank developmental projects and greater accountability

Research Aim: Examine communities impacted by development operations under the World Bank Development project schemes using the project law model to understand the lack of participation and successful influence of these communities to improve accountability and good governance.

Topic 2: The right to bear arms: Rethinking the second amendment

Research Aim: Gun control and the right to bear arms has been an ever-evolving web discourse in the United States. The research aims at analysing how gun control laws have changed in the USA since specifically focusing on the 2nd Amendment and its original framework.

Topic 3: Rethinking the international legal framework protecting journalists in war and conflict zones.

Research Question: Is the current legal framework still appropriate for protecting journalists in today’s conflict zones? Research Aim: The primary body of law that is set out to protect journalists includes the Geneva Conventions and their additional Protocols. However, since the time they have been drafted and decades after, there have been conspicuous changes to the way warfare is conducted. It is imperative to examine this body of law in order to improve it as journalists have now become prime targets in war zones and conflict areas because of their profession.

Topic 4: A critical analysis of employment law of disabled individuals in the UK and what new policies can be integrated to increase its efficiency.

Research Aim: Employment or labour law has always been under the limelight. Many critiques and researchers have proposed different amendments to the existing law pertaining to labour and employee. The main aim of the research is to critically analyse the employment law of disabled individuals in the UK along with effective recommendations that need to be made in order to make the existing law more efficient and effective.

Topic 5: A critical evaluation of racial discrimination laws in developed countries and how it impacts the workplace environment

Research Aim: Racial discrimination has always been a controversial issue in almost every part of the World. However, many developed countries (companies) face severe racial discrimination issues that directly impact their name and brand value. Therefore, this research provides a critical evaluation of the racial discrimination laws, particularly in developed countries. Moreover, the research will be focusing on how racial discrimination laws are impacting the workplace environment.

Topic 6: A comparative analysis of legislation, policy, and guidelines of domestic abuse between UK and USA.

Research Aim: Domestic laws basically deal with and provide criminal rules for punishing individuals who have physically or emotionally harmed their own family members. It has been found out that many domestic cases of abuse are not reported to the concerned authority. Due to this reason, the main focus of the research is to conduct a comparative analysis of legislation, policy, and guidelines of domestic abuse between the UK and the USA and how effective both the countries have been to minimise domestic abuse.

Topic 7: Analyzing the negative impact of technology in protecting the intellectual property rights of corporations.

Research Aim: Intellectual property has gained significant importance after the emergence of counterfeit products coming from different parts of the world. It has been found out that many factors have motivated the sale of counterfeit products. Therefore, this research aims at analysing the negative impact of technology in protecting the intellectual property rights of products and corporations.

Topic 8: A critical assessment of the terrorism act of 2010 and its impact on Muslims living around the globe.

Research Aim: Since the incident of 9/11, the entire world has been under the pressure of terrorism activities, especially Muslims living around the world. Therefore, this research intends to critically assess the terrorism act of 2010 and its impact on Muslims living around the globe.

Trust Law Dissertation Topics

The trust law requires the settler to meet the three certainties, including the object, intention, and subject matter. As posted to a moral obligation or mere gift, confidence of choice can be best described as clarity of purpose. Some interesting dissertation topics in the field of trust law  are listed below:

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How Can Research Prospect Help?

Research Prospect writers can send several custom topic ideas to your email address. Once you have chosen a topic that suits your needs and interests, you can order for our dissertation outline service which will include a brief introduction to the topic, research questions , literature review , methodology , expected results , and conclusion . The dissertation outline will enable you to review the quality of our work before placing the order for our full dissertation writing service!

European Law Dissertation Topics

European law has recently attracted wide attention from the academic world, thanks to the growing influence of European Law on administrative law in EU members. It should be noted that every aspect of life in European states is significantly affected by European law, and therefore this area of research has gained tremendous popularity. Some exciting and specific research areas are given below:

Read this Article.

Family Law Dissertation Topics

A wide range of topics are covered under the field of family law and the law of children. Essentially, this area of law takes into consideration the registration of marriages, statutory rights concerning marriage, the effects of a decree, void and voidable marriages, the impact of the Human Rights Act, the legal stature of unmarried and married individuals, and the case for reform of UK family law . Other research areas include enforcing financial responsibilities in the Magistrates court, enforcing the arrears of maintenance payments, the award of maintenance, enforcing financial obligations to children or a child, financial orders for children, and the Child Support Act. An extremely intriguing area of law that has gained tremendous popularity in the modern era, some specific  dissertation topics  in this area of law studies are listed below:

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Employment Law Dissertation Topics

Employment and equality law governs the relationship between the government, trade unions, employers, and employees.  Employment and equality law in the UK is a body of law that prevents bias and negative attitudes towards someone based on their ethnicity or race rather than work skills and experience. Some interesting dissertation topics  in this area of law are below:

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Commercial Law Dissertation Topics

Commercial law, also known as business law, is the whole body of substantive jurisprudence applicable to the conduct, relations, and rights of sales, trade, merchandising, and businesses and persons associated with commerce. Important issues of law covered by commercial law include real estate, secured transactions, credit transactions, bankruptcy, banking, and contracts. An intriguing area of law within the UK, specific topics for your law dissertation are listed below:

Criminal and Evidence Law Dissertation Topics

Criminal law  can be defined as a system of law dealing with the punishment of criminals. Criminal evidence, on the other hand, concerns evidence/testimony presented in relation to criminal charges. Evidence can be presented in various forms in order to prove and establish crimes. A wide array of topics can be covered in this subject area. To help you narrow down your research focus, some  interesting topics  are suggested below:

Company Law Dissertation Topics

Company law, also known as the  law of business associations , is the body of law that deals with business organisations and their formation, registration, incorporation, governance, dissolution, and administration. Some suggestions for company law dissertation topics are listed below:

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Intellectual Property and Tort Law Dissertation topics

All forms of legal injury are dealt with under the subject area of tort law. Essentially, tort law helps to establish the circumstances whereby a person may be held responsible for another person’s injury caused by either accident on intentional acts. On the other hand, intellectual property covers areas of law such as copyright, patents, and trademark. Trademark dissertation topics trademarks directive, trademarks act, infringement of trademarks such as revocation, invalidity, and the use of similar marks. Some interesting dissertation ideas and topics  of tort law and intellectual property are suggested below to help your law studies.

Human Rights and Immigration Law

The primary objective of human rights and immigration law is to ensure and protect human rights at domestic, regional, and international levels. With the world becoming a global village, human rights and immigration laws have attracted significant attention from academicians and policymakers. Some interesting law dissertation topics in this subject area are suggested below:

More Human Rights Law Dissertation Topics

Pandemic Law Dissertation Topics

Coronavirus, also known as the Covid-19, has become the most trending topic in the world since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic that started in China. Here are some interesting Corona Virus or Covid 19 Pandemic Law topics that you can consider for your law dissertation.

More Law Dissertation Topics

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Uk’s best academic support services. how would you know until you try, important notes:.

As a law dissertation student looking to get good grades, it is essential to develop new ideas and experiment with existing law dissertation theories – i.e., to add value and interest in the topic of your research.

The field of law dissertation is vast and interrelated to many other academic disciplines like civil engineering ,  construction ,  project management , engineering management , healthcare , mental health , artificial intelligence , tourism , physiotherapy , sociology , management , project management , and nursing . That is why it is imperative to create a project management dissertation topic that is articular, sound, and actually solves a practical problem that may be rampant in the field.

We can’t stress how important it is to develop a logical research topic based on your fundamental research. There are several significant downfalls to getting your case wrong; your supervisor may not be interested in working on it, the topic has no academic creditability, the research may not make logical sense, and there is a possibility that the study is not viable.

This impacts your time and efforts in writing your dissertation as you may end up in the cycle of rejection at the initial stage of the dissertation. That is why we recommend reviewing existing research to develop a topic, taking advice from your supervisor, and even asking for help in this particular stage of your dissertation.

While developing a research topic, keeping our advice in mind will allow you to pick one of the best law dissertation topics that fulfill your requirement of writing a research paper and add to the body of knowledge.

Therefore, it is recommended that when finalising your dissertation topic, you read recently published literature to identify gaps in the research that you may help fill.

Remember- dissertation topics need to be unique, solve an identified problem, be logical, and be practically implemented. Please look at some of our sample law dissertation topics to get an idea for your dissertation.

How to Structure your Law Dissertation

A well-structured dissertation can help students to achieve a high overall academic grade.

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    Company Law Dissertation Topics. Company law, also known as the law of business associations, is the body of law that deals with business organisations and their formation, registration, incorporation, governance, dissolution, and administration. Some suggestions for company law dissertation topics are listed below: