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 1 - 2022

Term 2 - 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 - 2021 : The overall satisfaction for students in the last offering of this course was 3.6 (on a 5 point Likert scale), based on a 33.82% 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, 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
Submission of the portfolio was modified so that it was submitted in two parts. Part 1 included the workshop tasks for weeks 1 to 5 and Part 2 included the workshop tasks for weeks 6 to 11. This encouraged students to focus on scoping, project managing, designing and researching their research project at the beginning of the term. Weekly workshop tasks were a journal-like format with both research and reflection activities. In dividing the project into two parts, this still provided some flexibility to students who cannot work on content on a weekly basis.
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
The weighting of the research project was reduced from 60% to 40% weighting. The value of the portfolio was increased from 20% to 60% and included two authentic legal research tasks that represented the type of research task a trainee or newly qualified lawyer may have to complete in a law firm.
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
The research project included four suggested topics as well as the option for students to design their own topic within the scope of the relevant law reform issues paper.
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
Students were provided with guidance on Moodle, MS Teams and via email about the formulating their research question. Workshops in the first few weeks of the term focused on identifying the scope of the project, formulating the research question and planning the project.
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
The unit coordinator has recorded a number of videos guiding students through the process of using legal encyclopaedias and locating secondary sources, such as journal articles. The unit coordinator is currently working with the library to produce materials on locating interdisciplinary materials on a number of the library's databases and to improve the law study guide on the library's webpage.
Source: Student evaluations
Feedback
Some students indicated that the portfolio, when combined with the research project, was too much work.
Recommendation
Portfolios were worth 60% and required students to compile their workshop preparation into a portfolio. This means that a large percentage of the assessment in this unit is automatically generated by students completing their preparation for the weekly workshop tasks. The weekly workshop tasks were designed to help students prepare their research project. For example, content focused on project management, researching primary and secondary legal sources, locating interdisciplinary materials and drafting persuasive arguments all helped students prepare their research project. There are therefore solid reasons for retaining this type of assessment. However, the overall recommendation is that this unit requires a review and for the content and assessment in this unit to be designed in accordance with the objectives of the law program and mapped to the law degree as a whole.
Action Taken
Nil.
Source: Student evaluations
Feedback
Some students liked the authentic research exercises and would prefer these tasks to a research project. Other students preferred being exposed to a law reform project.
Recommendation
The authentic legal research tasks, which included memos requiring students to complete a short research task for a supervisor in a law firm, were incorporated into the 2021 delivery as a result of student feedback. The weighting of the research project was reduced to reflect the fact that the unit was now also addressing authentic research tasks. Although some students saw great benefit in the diverse tasks, others found it distracted from the research project. The unit and the assessment should be thoroughly reviewed to identify a suitable structure and design that aligns with the objectives of the law program and maps correctly to the course curriculum.
Action Taken
Nil.
Source: Student evaluations, emails
Feedback
Students appreciated the videos on advanced legal research techniques for the legal databases
Recommendation
Regardless of what changes are implemented regarding the assessment in the unit, the videos focused on navigating databases and using advanced research techniques should be retained and the unit coordinator should work closely with the library to ensure the development of other suitable videos on how to locate resources through the library's numerous databases.
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 10
1 - Portfolio
2 - Written Assessment