Not many people can endure the challenges that law school presents. For one, getting into law school is already a formidable task in itself. You need to have at least a bachelor’s degree, possess the right academic credentials, and pass the law school admission test or LSAT. On top of these, you also need to go through a series of tests and interviews and impress admissions officers, especially if you are applying to a prestigious law school.
Assuming that you do get it in, you then need to keep up with law school’s demands for at least three years. This means going through literally tons of resources, writing countless papers, and sitting through endless discussions. The writing part in particular can be daunting, as papers in law school need to be packed with insight. One of the most common projects you will write is the law research paper or legal research paper. In this post, we look at some tips that can help you accomplish this project.
What Is Legal Research Paper?
A legal research paper, as the term suggests, is a research paper that focuses on a topic in law or the legal system. The main objective of a legal research paper is to convey a point to the reader and support that point using evidence and reasoning.
Evidence and reasoning are especially important in a legal research paper since law as a field relies more on facts and logic than emotions.
A legal research paper has the basic elements of a research paper such as an outline, a standard format, and complete sections. But more than this, it has to be insightful. Thus your research paper needs to go beyond what other sources already say. It has to interpret and synthesize laws, legal concepts and principles, and cases to produce new knowledge. While writing a legal research paper is a complicated process, there are ways to ensure quality. The following sections offer tips for writing this project.
Tips for Writing a Legal Research Paper
If you already know how to write a research paper, then you are already off to a good start in learning how to write a legal research paper. But as noted earlier, this project is more complex than an average paper. This is largely because civil or criminal law essay topics tend to be multifaceted and downright controversial. It is no wonder the study of the law and the legal system is considered a difficult undertaking. Nevertheless, some ways of how you can tackle this task better are provided below.
1. Know the Type of Research Paper You Are Writing
A research paper is a general piece of writing and therefore may serve different purposes depending on the instructions. Once you receive the details of the task, examine the instructions to determine what type of research paper you are writing. A research paper can be considered as task-based, problem-solving, or just a general research essay.
- Task-based research paper. A task-based research paper requires you to perform a specific task. In other words, your research paper needs to meet certain criteria or components that comprise the task. This may mean answering a question or a series of questions, arguing a position, or any other task.
- Problem-solving research paper. A problem-solving research paper attempts to provide a solution to an existing issue. The legal system is an intricate web of laws, principles, concepts, and cases. In this type of legal research paper, your main aim is to resolve a conundrum by analyzing and utilizing evidence.
- General research paper. This type of research paper is largely expository; that is, your main purpose is to present findings from your research. But this should not be mistaken as merely to reiterate the content of your sources. You need still need to analyze and synthesize information to provide a consistent, comprehensive, and unified discussion.
2. Use High-Quality Sources
Law is a highly academic field. Your research paper should therefore use only sources of the highest quality. This means avoiding sources like user-generated webpages, blogs, or commercial pages. Instead, you need to use articles published in peer-reviewed journals, laws, cases, and books by experts in the field.
The rule of thumb is: the more scholarly the source is, the better it is for your paper.
You can also use other sources like newspaper reports, documentaries, and primary sources if necessary.
3. Conduct Strategic Research
Conducting research for a legal research paper is a meticulous and time-consuming process. If you are not sure where to look and what to look for, you may end up just wasting time and energy. It is to your advantage to research strategically. Being strategic with your research will help you gather information and learn about your topic while minimizing the expenditure of your resources. The following are some ways to conduct research strategically:
- Note key facts and search terms. Take note of key facts and search terms you come across as you read. Key facts are useful when you are dealing with large amounts of information since these bring out the gist of your sources and eliminate non-essential elements. Meanwhile, search terms are useful when you look for materials that relate to or corroborate your sources.
- Use a legal dictionary. Keeping a legal dictionary by your side at all times will help you understand better the material you are reading. When you come across an unfamiliar term, make sure you look it up in the dictionary. Proceeding without understanding what you are reading is just a total waste of time.
- Read legal commentaries. Legal commentaries, especially those given by experts, will provide you with insight into topics. Commentaries go beyond providing facts by offering informed perspectives, and thus these are helpful when you are formulating your own opinions.
- Use a legal encyclopedia. Having a legal encyclopedia at your disposal is useful for the same reason that having a legal dictionary is advantageous. This source can give you a quick overview of crucial topics before you begin delving deeper into your research.
- Look at relevant legislation. The law continues to evolve, so make sure that you look at relevant legislation to determine if you are updated. There may be proposed laws or recent amendments that affect the way the law is interpreted and implemented.
- Read authoritative cases. Relevant cases, especially landmark ones, are essential to understanding the law. Such cases show how the law is applied to real-life settings and situations.
- Read legal commentaries. Legal commentaries written by authorities and experts are a valuable source for various reasons. Such scholarly sources can offer you background on the topic, brilliant interpretations, and illuminating insights.
- Evaluate and consolidate results. The best research papers are those that make sense of the whole rather than merely the sum of its parts. So, consolidate your findings and evaluate them as a whole. Find common themes, contrasting viewpoints, and look at the overall findings.
4. Write a Tentative Response
To increase clarity and precision, try to write a tentative response. Determine your position or main message and then use this to create a thesis statement. Then create a legal research outline. If you know how to make an effective outline, then this should be easier for you. Outlines give your paper structure. It is the skeletal framework that you flesh out as you write your paper.
5. Do Not Be Descriptive, Be Analytical
Like any research paper, a legal research paper should exhibit analysis. Do not simply repeat what your sources say. Mere repetition will result in a descriptive paper and no professor will give you good marks if you cannot show that you used your analytical skills to come up with an original stance or opinion. Read between the lines and weigh the evidence to form your own conclusions.
6. Cite Proof
Aristotle once wrote that “the law is reason free from passion.” When applied to your legal research paper, this means that you should avoid making arguments based on emotion. While the three modes of persuasion are vital to most writings, not all of these apply in a legal research paper. What you need here are truths, facts, and logic.
7. Always Connect Your Argument to the Law
The law is at the center of the legal system. It, therefore, makes sense to always connect the law to your argument. Regardless of your position or claim, you should do your best to show how the law figures into the discussion. For example, use the law to show why the position you take is lawful. At the same time, if you are arguing against existing law, use other laws and reasoning to advance your position.
8. Avoid Verbosity
While eloquence and sophistication in writing are certainly welcome, verbosity has no place in a legal research paper. Keep in mind that the law is clearly and precisely worded so as to avoid confusion. Use only as many words as necessary. Avoid flowery words at all costs since these do not add any value to your writing and can even muddle your message.
9. Cite Your Sources
A legal research paper is among the most scholarly papers you will write in law school. Make sure you cite all your sources. Apart from helping you avoid plagiarism by showing where you derived your information, citing your sources also enriches the content of your paper. Your professor will know right away if you used legitimate sources by just looking at your citations.
Writing an excellent legal research paper is a tough job. This single project requires hours or even days of researching, reading, and writing. While there are ways to accomplish the task faster such as by conducting strategic research, it will still cost you precious resources. Completing this paper on time becomes more difficult if you have other papers to write.
Fortunately, there is a way for you to finish all your coursework. CustomEssayMeister offers a superb custom writing service that can provide you a well-written legal research paper at an affordable price. Many of our writers have a background in law, which makes them perfectly capable of writing your legal research paper. Simply place an order on our website to have your legal research paper written by a professional writer.