Legal Writing at Duke Law School Learning to write like a lawyer is perhaps the greatest challenge of legal education. The writing faculty support Duke Law students in all of their writing endeavors, helping them to develop and perfect the skills necessary to produce top-quality legal writing. The Program, supplemented by the Legal Writing Resources website, emphasizes the integration of legal analysis, writing, and research, and helps students to understand and consider the legal audience for whom they are writing.
Once you suspect that you are procrastinating, it can be helpful to review what you are expecting of yourself, and check that those expectations are realistic.
This is where planning is vital. Realistic planning To improve the prospect of completing on time, and avoiding procrastination, you need to: Your research plan should also include information about what equipment you will need to complete your project, and any travel costs or other expenses that you are likely to incur through the pursuit of your research.
You should also think about whether you are dependent on any one else to complete your project, and think about what you are going to do if they are unable to help you. Once you have created your plan it is a good idea to show it to someone else.
Ideally you will be able to show it to a member of academic staff or bring it to the Learning Development, but talking it over with a friend may also help you to spot anything that you have forgotten or anywhere that you have been unrealistic in your planning.
Being organised and methodical while conducting your research The role of the supervisor Although a dissertation is an opportunity for you to work independently, you will usually be allocated a member of academic staff as a supervisor.
Supervisors are there to help you shape your ideas and give you advice on how to conduct the research for your dissertation. They are not there to teach you the topic you have chosen to investigate: They are, however, one of the resources that you can call on during your research.
Academics are busy people, so to get the most out of your supervisor you will need to be organised and to take responsibility for the relationship.
To ensure that you get the most out of your supervisor you need to: This could include your research plan, early results of your data collection or draft chapters; turn up on time to each meeting you have arranged.
Do not assume that your supervisor is available at all times to see you; at the end of each supervision agree some action points for you to focus on before the next time you meet; and keep a record of what you decide in supervision sessions.
If you are not happy with the way you are being supervised, explain why to your supervisor or discuss the issue with your personal tutor. Undertaking a literature survey Regardless of whether you have been given a dissertation topic or you have developed your own ideas, you will need to be able to demonstrate the rationale for your research, and to describe how it fits within the wider research context in your area.
To support you in doing this you will need to undertake a literature review, which is a review of material that has already been published, either in hard copy or electronically, that may be relevant for your research project. Key tools that are available to help you, include: It is a good idea to make an appointment to see the librarian specialising in your subject.
An information librarian should be able to give you advice on your literature search, and on how to manage the information that you generate.
You will probably generate more references than you can read. Use the titles and abstracts to decide whether the reference is worth reading in detail. Be selective by concentrating on references that: Once you start reading, ensure that you think about what you are trying to get out of each article or book that you read.
Your notes should enable you to write up your literature search without returning to the books you have read. Refer to the guides Effective Note MakingReferencing and Bibliographiesand Avoiding Plagiarismfor further help with note-making. Collecting data For most research projects the data collection phase feels like the most important part.
However, you should avoid jumping straight into this phase until you have adequately defined your research problem, and the extent and limitations of your research. If you are too hasty you risk collecting data that you will not be able to use.
Consider how you are going to store and retrieve your data. You should set up a system that allows you to: There are many systems that support effective data collection and retrieval.
These range from card indexes and cross-referenced exercise books, through electronic tools like spreadsheets, databases and bibliographic software, to discipline-specific tools.
You should talk about how you plan to store your data with your supervisor, an information librarian, or a study adviser in the Learning Development. As you undertake your research you are likely to come up with lots of ideas.
It can be valuable to keep a record of these ideas on index cards, in a dedicated notebook, or in an electronic file. They may be useful as ideas in themselves, and may be useful as a record of how your thinking developed through the research process.
Pilot studies A pilot study involves preliminary data collection, using your planned methods, but with a very small sample. It aims to test out your approach, and identify any details that need to be addressed before the main data collection goes ahead. For example, you could get a small group to fill in your questionnaire, perform a single experiment, or analyse a single novel or document.The First-Year Legal Research and Writing Program (LRW) is a series of sequenced, interrelated exercises introducing students to the way lawyers conduct legal research, analyze and frame legal positions, and present their work in writing and in oral argument.
— Jon J. Kerr, srmvision.com, "Winnetka's Jack Drury, 'the ultimate teammate,' has a future with Carolina Hurricanes," 3 July The signpost that reoccurs most often for me is the smell of lemon zest, almost fizzy in its direct attack on my nostrils.
Signposts in academic writing. Signposts in academic writing are as important as grammar and vocabulary! In western academic writing the reader is guided carefully through an argument. Nothing is a surprise when you are reading an academic text!
International students who are writing at university need to be aware of signposts. The Legal Research and Writing Program for first year students involves two courses for a total of six credits: LRW I and LRW II.
Taught in sections of approximately 20 students, these courses challenge students by presenting rigorous writing, editing, and rewriting experiences. Using ‘signpost’ words and phrases your writing, and gives examples of words and phrases that achieve and signal these links. Related guides: ‘Writing an Essay’.
What are ‘signpost’ words? This is a name commonly given to words or phrases that express a connection between Certain research methods. The book Legal Writing in Plain English, Second Edition: Provide signposts along the way.
§ Unclutter the text by moving citations into footnotes. § Weave quotations deftly into your narrative. Based on years of Garner’s research and teaching, this book elevates the standard of what a legal-writing text can and should be.