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LawPALSHons Session 2: Honours Essays

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Lindsay Jack

on 7 November 2014

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Transcript of LawPALSHons Session 2: Honours Essays

Session 2: Honours Essays

The actual essay
Key Points
Getting started...
A guide to aid transition from ordinary to honours-level essays.
Lindsay Jack, Director of the Student Experience

Nimarta Cheema, Diploma student and Edinburgh LLB Graduate

Paul Iannetta, Diploma student and Edinburgh LLB Graduate

Murray Towers, Diploma student and Edinburgh LLB Graduate

Important building block towards dissertation.

Don't unduly panic - essays ARE very important but are generally only worth a third of your final mark for each course.

You should already be working on your essays. Some are due in December, some January and some March. You should know exactly when your essay is due in by now!

Many resources to help you with essay-writing skills are available from the University's Institute for Academic Development at www.ed.ac.uk/iad

Helpful books:
S. I. Strong 'How to Write Law Essays and Exams' (3rd edition, Oxford Publishing, 2010);
Askey, S. & McLeod, I. 'Studying Law' (2nd edition, Palgrave MacMillan, 2008)

As with ordinary, look at what the question is asking you to do, not what you WANT it to ask you to do! Don't just write everything you know about the subject. No £10 note answers summarising the law...

You are aiming to show that you have progressed from fairly narrative essays to demonstrating the
skills that are expected of you at Honours level. At Honours, we really want to hear your voice and your opinions. We've moved from what IS the law to WHY and HOW and WHAT DO WE THINK?

Aim to produce something in the style of respected academics
in articles you have read.

Some of you may be familiar with the CLEO method of writing essays. For those of you not:


Identify what the claim being disputed is. This shows you can spot legal issues and put together multiples lines of argument.


Identify and present the applicable law. There may be more than one issue and more than one source of authority. This allows you to demonstrate depth and breadth of legal knowledge and your legal reasoning skills.

This step is where you assess and discuss the extent to which the facts in the question live up to the general legal standard required in the law you have identified as appropriate.

This is where you pull together all three steps you have just gone through and decide which of your arguments is most compelling. Weigh up the evidence you have presented.

Try to show a little imagination in your writing. This follows on from our last session looking at what's expected of you at Honours level.

Don't forget how important it is to present your work well, with correct punctuation and grammar and within the correct formatting requirements. You want to make it as easy as possible for the marker to read.
Keep thinking back to the question as you write your essay.

Keep the question in mind throughout the essay. This helps with flow and structure. It also allows you to make sure you are on track.
Structure your essay around your argument

Produce a plan where you have:

Introduction - say how you have interpreted the question and how you will answer it. (
tell them what you are going to say

Main body - keep it logical and relevant and keep referring to the question. (
say it

Conclusion - reiterate your main argument and how you got there. (
say what you said

Non-academic sources (e.g. newspaper reports) can be used to support arguments but should not take precedence over scholarly sources.

Internet caution...

Always give a page number when quoting from material.

Don't overdo quotes. Use them to support, not make up the body of text!

Have confidence in your own voice by trying to think critically about the material and argument. Your experience in Ordinary will have given you the skills to do this and allow you to put information into a wider context.
1. Start by interpreting the question. Ask: What am I trying to do in this essay? What am I setting out to prove/argue/show/discuss/demonstrate/critique etc?

2. Move on to identify and tackle the relevant research. Always support your arguments with evidence and ensure your essay and its arguments progress in a logical way. Do make notes of sources as you go along to avoid last-minute panics and the ever-present fear of plagiarism.

3. Write an answer which demonstrates you have carried out steps 1 and 2 above. This means you should aim to produce a well-argued piece which shows:
rigorous analysis of the question and a progression of ideas supported by evidence of
thorough and relevant research.

Your essay should have an introduction, body and conclusion - as at ordinary - but will contain much deeper analysis than an ordinary-level essay. We want to know you've not only understood the law but thought more widely about the subject and reflected critically on its various facets. Don't be afraid to disagree!
Writer's Block?

Some tips...

Set smaller goals e.g. write two paragraphs.
Start anywhere - you can rearrange later.
Talk out loud to yourself - record it and write a draft from that.
Talk it over with a friend/colleague/unsuspecting relative.
Consider trying free-writing where you write/type for a set period of time and try not to stop. Just keep going and watch those ideas come out!
List ideas as they come to you even if you don't have the time to pad them out at that stage.
Try to picture your essay. A Spider diagram might highlight areas where you are weak or need more research/writing.
Take a break - you may be stressed.
And finally...

Proofread, proofread and proofread again.

Double-check all references - cross-reference bibliography, footnotes and citations in the body of the essay.

Do all of this with plenty of time left before the deadline.
Full transcript