What you will study
The module builds on the work undertaken in your previous LLM modules and consolidates your research skills. It equips you to undertake a significant piece of independent legal research. You will learn how to:
- develop your knowledge of recent research in your chosen research topic
- become competent in research methods appropriate to your research topic
- develop the capacity to plan, organise, manage and carry out an extended independent study at masters level
- develop skills in the written communication of research work at masters level
- define a clear purpose for your research; an interesting or novel set of questions to guide it; an appropriate set of methods; and justification for the choice of research topic, questions and methods
- be confident about the process of managing, drafting and redrafting large amounts of material and editing long documents
- pace your workload and activities over a lengthy period, keep to a schedule and be flexible enough to make alterations to it when problems occur
- construct and sustain a clear and persuasive argument through a long document without resorting to long descriptions that are not embedded in the structure of the argument
- write and understand the purpose of an introduction, a conclusion and an abstract for a law dissertation
- write clearly and imaginatively, and with a sense of authority
- use an appropriate referencing system with consistency and accuracy.
The module materials are specifically designed to support you in six key areas: developing a research proposal, undertaking a literature review, research methodology, undertaking research, analysing research to form your own conclusions and the process of writing up research.
Your research topic will depend on your research interests. The only stipulation regarding the research topic for your dissertation is that it must be related to an LLM law subject module you have studied at the OU and be linked to one (or more) of the themes of the LLM (international, comparative, regulation, human rights). Your tutor will help you to decide what is feasible.
Throughout your studies you will be expected to make effective use of both primary and secondary sources, to understand, select and critically assess research methods, to make effective use of library and other resources, to construct sophisticated arguments in extended pieces of prose, to use resources efficiently and discriminately and to gain detailed knowledge of a specialist legal topic through your own independent research.
While the work you produce for your dissertation will not be expected to be entirely original (originality of that kind is a requirement for a PhD), you will be required to undertake a survey of the relevant existing literature and to be up to date as far as possible with recent literature, commentary and developments in your chosen research topic.
A tutor will be appointed to support you throughout your studies and will provide advice on the appropriateness of your research plan for LLM level work. Additional specialist support will also be available through specialist forums. Your tutor's comments on your written work will be a key part of your teaching for the module, as well as a way of monitoring your progress.
During the module you will produce four pieces of written work before submitting the dissertation itself. The first will be a draft of your research proposal on which you will receive feedback from your tutor. The second will enable you to explore different research methods. The third will be your final research proposal which must be approved by the W800 Board. The fourth piece of work will be a draft section of your dissertation. The fifth and final piece of work is the dissertation itself which will be marked by two tutors. Their recommendations will help to determine the result awarded by the Examination and Assessment Board.
The module will enable you to use the skills you have developed during your postgraduate studies and deepen and diversify your knowledge and understanding of a specialist area. You will be expected to confront the uncertainties associated with project planning and decision-making as part of your work towards your dissertation. Your dissertation will need to be well written and must show that you are confident in creating the scholarly apparatus necessary to support your argument.