LAWS12072 - Legal Research

General Information

Unit Synopsis

Legal Research builds upon your existing legal research skills acquired in Introduction to Law to enhance your ability to locate, analyse and apply a range of legal and interdisciplinary sources in a range of contexts. In this unit, you will work on a research project that involves critical analysis of a contemporary legal issue and its potential solutions. You will also build a research portfolio in which you will apply your research skills to a range of authentic research exercises you are likely to face as a trainee or newly qualified lawyer and engage in self-reflection and peer review.

Details

Level Undergraduate
Unit Level 2
Credit Points 6
Student Contribution Band SCA Band 4
Fraction of Full-Time Student Load 0.125
Pre-requisites or Co-requisites

Co-requisite: LAWS11057

Important note: Students enrolled in a subsequent unit who failed their pre-requisite unit, should drop the subsequent unit before the census date or within 10 working days of Fail grade notification. Students who do not drop the unit in this timeframe cannot later drop the unit without academic and financial liability. See details in the Assessment Policy and Procedure (Higher Education Coursework).

Class Timetable View Unit Timetable
Residential School No Residential School

Unit Availabilities from Term 2 - 2021

Term 2 - 2021 Profile
Online
Term 3 - 2021 Profile
Online
Term 2 - 2022 Profile
Online
Term 3 - 2022 Profile
Online

Attendance Requirements

All on-campus students are expected to attend scheduled classes – in some units, these classes are identified as a mandatory (pass/fail) component and attendance is compulsory. International students, on a student visa, must maintain a full time study load and meet both attendance and academic progress requirements in each study period (satisfactory attendance for International students is defined as maintaining at least an 80% attendance record).

Assessment Overview

Recommended Student Time Commitment

Each 6-credit Undergraduate unit at CQUniversity requires an overall time commitment of an average of 12.5 hours of study per week, making a total of 150 hours for the unit.

Assessment Tasks

Assessment Task Weighting
1. Portfolio 60%
2. Written Assessment 40%

This is a graded unit: your overall grade will be calculated from the marks or grades for each assessment task, based on the relative weightings shown in the table above. You must obtain an overall mark for the unit of at least 50%, or an overall grade of ‘pass’ in order to pass the unit. If any ‘pass/fail’ tasks are shown in the table above they must also be completed successfully (‘pass’ grade). You must also meet any minimum mark requirements specified for a particular assessment task, as detailed in the ‘assessment task’ section (note that in some instances, the minimum mark for a task may be greater than 50%).

Consult the University’s Grades and Results Policy for more details of interim results and final grades

Past Exams

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Previous Feedback

Term 2 - 2020 : The overall satisfaction for students in the last offering of this course was 3.9 (on a 5 point Likert scale), based on a 37.31% response rate.

Feedback, Recommendations and Responses

Every unit is reviewed for enhancement each year. At the most recent review, the following staff and student feedback items were identified and recommendations were made.

Source: Surveys
Feedback
Many students liked the iterative process where the weekly tasks contributed to the construction of the final research paper.
Recommendation
Continue this practice and gather further feedback from students about their study and writing habits.
Action Taken
The weekly workshop tasks were retained as an assessment and each weekly workshop was focused on scaffolding students' research skills and focused on constructing the final research paper.
Source: Surveys
Feedback
There was a range of responses on the difficulty level, a few students felt it was too introductory others felt it was too advanced. Most were satisfied.
Recommendation
Further encourage students to self-audit skills at the start of the unit and provide feedback to the coordinator about their individual needs.
Action Taken
Students were asked to audit their research skills. They were also required to compile a reflection at the end of term as part of their portfolio. These were designed to encourage students to become reflective practitioners by identifying their strengths and areas on which they needed to focus. For those who found the unit too advanced, further videos on performing basic searches and navigating the legal and university databases were provided.
Source: Surveys
Feedback
Some students dislike the MS Tools communication tool which was trialled in this unit. Some students disliked the platform even though it was not compulsory and any content was also delivered in moodle as well.
Recommendation
MS Tools is going to become a core part of CQU's communication repertoire, the trial experience has provided a source of feedback to TASAC for the when the full rollout occurs to aid in transition.
Action Taken
The unit used both MS Teams and Moodle. There were similar levels of interaction across both platforms, with some students indicating they preferred Moodle because they were more familiar with the layout and how it operates and others indicating they preferred MS Teams as it provided a broader range of capabilities and a social element.
Source: Surveys
Feedback
Some students experience timetable clashes
Recommendation
Timetables are set in the expectation that students are following their course planners. It is impossible to predict clashes where students making divergent choices, particularly in a large unit. We can keep encouraging students to follow the planners.
Action Taken
The workshop was timetabled to ensure it did not clash with any second year units and aligned with the course planner. It is not possible to allow for every possible combination of units in scheduling workshops - the workshop is recorded for those who experience clashes.
Source: Surveys, class feedback
Feedback
Many students indicated that compiling the weekly workshop tasks into a research portfolio was beneficial as each week was designed to enhance students' skills and facilitate the construction of the final project. However, some students did not complete the tasks (and thus compile the research portfolio) incrementally, and therefore indicated it was very intense trying to compile the research portfolio over a few short days at the end of term.
Recommendation
From a learning design perspective, and as indicated in feedback, there is great benefit for students in combining the weekly workshop tasks, which are focused on the progression of skills relevant to the research project, with assessment to encourage students to engage with the weekly material while compiling their project. However, students receive little benefit from the weekly workshop tasks if they are compiled over a few days at the end of term. The research portfolio should be submitted incrementally, in a journal-like format, to encourage students to engage with the workshop materials more frequently (although not on a weekly basis so that students are afforded some flexibility).
Action Taken
Nil.
Source: Surveys, class feedback, student consultations, emails
Feedback
Some students felt that there was a lack of connection to legal practice because the research project is focused on a Law Reform Commission's issues paper. However, some students do not want to be a lawyer or see the value in advocating for change and enjoyed immersing themselves in a topic and working on their final project for the duration of the term.
Recommendation
There is value in constructing a final project that is focused on a theoretical legal issue rather than a problem scenario. Lawyers may make submissions to Law Reform Commissions on topics within their field of expertise or advocate for change. Many students do not intend to practice. The ability to fully engage with a topic over the course of a term produces a better outcome and enhances students' research skills and ability to engage in critical analysis. However, the unit could offer a mix of tasks, with some research tasks connected to legal issues set in the context of a client's scenario and also a smaller research paper focused on critically analysing the law. The final project should be retained but reduced from 60% weighting. The research portfolio should incorporate tasks focused on problem scenarios as well as the final project and submitted incrementally throughout the term and its weighting should be increased.
Action Taken
Nil.
Source: Surveys, class feedback, student consultations, emails
Feedback
Some students liked the fact that they could select any topic within the selected Queensland Law Reform Commission's issues paper or formulate their own topic, provided that it was within the scope of the issues paper. Other students found the fact that they were not directed to research a particular question or topic daunting.
Recommendation
Students were provided with guidance on formulating their own topics in the weekly workshops and students were provided with the option of one-to-one consultations about their topics via Zoom. Students who posted on Moodle/MS Teams received feedback on their proposed topics and extensive guidance on the research question, structure and arguments was provided on each student's project plan. The Queensland Law Reform Commission's issues paper contained a large list of questions that students could have used as their research topic. To provide students with the flexibility of selecting a topic that they are really interested in but also to assist those students who find it overwhelming, the unit should offer students the option of formulating their own topic within the scope of the relevant issues paper or they can select one of a number of pre-designed questions.
Action Taken
Nil.
Source: Surveys, class feedback, student consultations
Feedback
Responsive and extensive guidance on formulating the research topic/ question, the structure and the content of the project was provided across Moodle, MS Teams, via email, in one-to-one student consultations and in the weekly workshops
Recommendation
Continue to provide guidance across both platforms, via email, offer one-to-one consultations and continue with weekly workshops focused on helping students to construct their final project.
Action Taken
Nil.
Source: Lecturer reflection, colleagues
Feedback
The library should be involved in designing legal research materials
Recommendation
Work with the library to create materials reinforcing basic research skills. Currently, extensive materials (including follow-along videos) on navigating the legal databases are provided in Moodle. However, use of the other databases in the library (such as HeinOnline) could be supported by resources created by the library.
Action Taken
Nil.
Unit learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this unit, you will be able to:

  1. Identify issues in ill-defined legal problems and conduct legal research to provide advice and recommendations using relevant and suitable sources.
  2. Design and complete a legal research project utilising suitable research methods to locate credible legal and interdisciplinary sources.
  3. Respond to complex and dynamic issues through critical analysis of the law and evaluating evidence and potential solutions.
  4. Communicate effectively both orally and in writing in a range of professional and academic contexts.
  5. Critically reflect on work and provide comprehensive feedback to others through a peer review process.

Alignment of Assessment Tasks to Learning Outcomes
Assessment Tasks Learning Outcomes
1 2 3 4 5
1 - Portfolio
2 - Written Assessment
Alignment of Graduate Attributes to Learning Outcomes
Introductory Level
Intermediate Level
Graduate Level
Graduate Attributes Learning Outcomes
1 2 3 4 5
1 - Communication
2 - Problem Solving
3 - Critical Thinking
4 - Information Literacy
5 - Team Work
6 - Information Technology Competence
8 - Ethical practice
Alignment of Assessment Tasks to Graduate Attributes
Introductory Level
Intermediate Level
Graduate Level
Assessment Tasks Graduate Attributes
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
1 - Portfolio
2 - Written Assessment