University of Manchester. School of Law

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1 University of Manchester School of Law Writing An Essay for LL.B (Law; English Law and French Law) BA (Accounting and Law; Law with Politics) BSocSc (Criminology and Social Policy) & Visiting Students (including those on Erasmus and Socrates schemes) & Students studying for the Certificate in Legal Studies 2004

2 Introduction Writing an essay is not an easy enterprise. This guide is designed to help you make the most of your course work (assessed essay) or non-assessed essay. Because your essay in most courses will count towards the examination result, it is important that you prepare and present your work to the best advantage. Non-assessed essays are equally as important because they help you practise with writing a legal piece of work. It is recommended that you read this guide in conjunction with Guidelines on the Presentation and Submission of UG Course Work (Assessed Essays) and Feedback on Assessed and Non-Assessed Work available on ManLaw. Please note that this guide is NOT for writing UG dissertations. There is a separate guide on the presentation and submission of UG dissertations available on ManLaw. 1. Preparing your essay Selecting a title for your essay The first step is to select a title (if you have a choice 1 st year students do not have a choice) that covers a topic you feel confident with and that will enable you to demonstrate your knowledge and understanding. This first step is very important and you have to give yourself sometime in selecting the title of your essay. Do not rush. Selecting a title for your essay will require some preparatory work such as some initial reading and gathering of material so that you understand what is expected of you and so that you can see how much research you will have to undertake subsequently once you start writing your essay. Planning the structure of your essay Once you have chosen your essay title you must think carefully about how to structure your essay. Most students find it very useful to write down an outline of their essay. Indeed this is a very good exercise as it helps you to be more focused, to use the various legal resources available in a more coherent manner and, most importantly, it will save you time. When you write down an outline of your essay you should ask yourself the following questions: - What is the main topic covered by the question? - What are the specific concepts, theories or principles demanded by the question? - What conclusions are to be drawn? At this stage you must start retrieving all the necessary and relevant material to write your essay. How do you start your research? In the majority of cases, course programmes will have a detailed list of textbooks (with reference of specific chapters) and articles to read. If you are unsure about the material you have gathered or would like some further advice you should not hesitate to ask the Course Director or your seminar-taker how to go about the planning of your essay. 2

3 Gathering material and writing your essay The John Rylands University Library has a substantial selection of books and periodicals. The Library web pages have links to relevant databases and reference materials, including electronic sources of law materials, such as Westlaw, Lexis/Nexis and an internet tutorial for lawyers. There is also a Law specialist, member of the library staff, to help students with their queries. A smaller selection of law materials, consisting of the main sets of Law Reports and Law Journals, can be found in the Law School s own library. The writing of your essay requires that you have read all the relevant material and that you have also written an outline for your essay. When you write your essay you need to show that you can reason articulately, that is, summarise and reflect on the information from a range of legal sources and remember to cite authority for your arguments. Occasionally, you may also select and develop points or issues raised from lectures and seminars, however, you have to make sure that you also include your ideas and conclusions and that your essay is not merely descriptive or repeating what other people have said. Examiners are aware of the fact that you are studying the subject for the first time so it is not expected of you that you bring new insights into the subject. What is expected is that you state what you think on the basis of the legal sources that you have selected for the writing of your essay. This will demonstrate your knowledge and understanding of the topic as well as your ability to evaluate critically. For example, you may be asked in an essay question to explain the legal and factual issues of a case and for that you will be required to cite authority for your arguments. However, to demonstrate that you can evaluate critically you may want to explain why you agree or disagree with the ruling given in the case that you are asked to analyse. Or again, if it is a landmark ruling, you may want to explain why you think it represents an important precedent in that particular area of law. Finally, it is very important that you express yourself clearly and succinctly. Avoid long sentences and make good use of punctuation. This helps the examiner to assess better the content of your work. Format and style of your essay You should write your essay on computer. This allows you to read through your essay again carefully and to proof read it to correct errors in grammar, spelling and punctuation. How you present your work is important. Your essay should be on A4-size paper and the margins at the top and bottom and the left and right of the page should be set at 1 inch. Make sure that your essay is in justified format and that it is written either in 12- point Times New Roman or Arial script. It is also useful to subdivide your essay into various sections beginning with an Introduction and ending with a Conclusion. The Introduction does not have to be too long. You simply need to explain to the reader what you are going to talk about and how you go about answering the question set. The main body of the essay should include your arguments and all the information necessary to sustain your main argument. The main body of the essay may also be 3

4 subdivided into smaller sections to make it easier for the examiner to read your essay. The Conclusion draws together all the main points made throughout your essay. Use double spacing and leave a line space between paragraphs and sections. This makes it easier to read. It is also important that when you quote someone s argument or reproduce a passage from a ruling you use quotation marks. It is not necessary to put the text in italics. However, you must not reproduce an entire paragraph! If you feel that a whole paragraph is important, you must explain it in your own words. Once again, this shows that you have understood what you are writing or quoting. See also section 2 of the Guidelines on presentation and submission of UG coursework (assessed essays) Also make sure that you insert pages and that you give references throughout the essay, that is, footnotes (which are preferable to endnotes because they can be seen there and then by the reader, without having to keep turning the pages). Text in footnotes should be in either 10 or 12-point (although 12-point is preferable). Footnotes should be brief and kept to a minimum. Citations- Acknowledge your sources in footnotes. Whatever method of citation you use, be consistent. Below are examples of how you could cite a book or an article. (Always remember to include the page number and not simply the title and author. For the bibliography, the page number is only necessary for articles and cases) Books: Articles: White papers: Parliamentary Papers P. Craig, Administrative Law (London, Sweet & Maxwell, 5 th ed. 2003) McFadden, The Scottish Constitutional Convention [1995] Public Law 215 Report of the Independent Commission on the Voting System (Cm (1998)) Home Affairs Committee, Judicial Appointments Procedures (H.C. 52 ( )) Cases: Pepper v. Hart [1993] 1 All ER 42 These are only some examples. Please make sure that you learn how to cite all primary and secondary legal sources for ALL courses. For example, citing European Union materials may be different from citing official government reports etc. There are also location references, that is, useful abbreviations that avoid you from having to re-write the reference in full if you have written it before. For example, if you have quoted a book in note 1, T. Hartley, The Foundations of European Community Law (Oxford, OUP, 1998, 4th ed) and you are referring to the same author and book in note 2 you simply write: Ibidem or Ibid. (Latin term for the same ), p However, if in note 2 you are quoting also the same page, then you simply write Idem (Latin term for identical ). 4

5 If you are quoting the same book in note 5 instead you write the name of the author, then the location of the book, that is, which note, and then the page number, for example, T. Hartley, above (or op. cit. for the Latin version), note 1, p The same applies for an article or a case, the only difference being that you simply write the page number, that is 244 and not p You may also want to use the term below in a footnote. This is used when you refer to a concept or principle that you are going to explain in more detail in the subsequent section. It is also useful in terms of word limits to make use of signals in footnotes. The most common ones are: - e.g. for example; - i.e., that is; - contra, cited authority that directly contradicts the statement in the main text; - see, to indicate the cited authority; - see also, when you are citing cited authority which is not as relevant as the first one you cited or cited authority that may further develop a concept or theory. It is also possible to use abbreviations of law reports and journals. You should try to become accustomed to the most common abbreviations and use them in your footnotes. At the end of your essay you should provide a bibliography, that is, provide the materials that you have used, for books and articles alphabetically by author, and otherwise alphabetically by title, using recognised conventions in citing legal materials. You should, therefore, keep a record of all the material you used for writing your essay. Final draft of your essay Before you hand in your essay make sure that you have proof read it and revised the draft you wrote. Hence, make sure you have edited the text by checking the relevance of what you have written and the clarity of your essay s content. In addition, you should make sure that you make use of a gender-neutral language. This means avoiding the use of male terms when the person about whom you are writing could be a woman and/or a man. The old convention that the term he also includes she is no longer regarded as acceptable in many quarters. The use of a plural rather than the singular may help you solve this problem. For example, Judges may have different perceptions of the same case depending on their cultural background instead of A judge may have a different perception of a case depending on his background. You should also aim at finishing and printing your essay a few days before the deadline for submission so that you avoid panic and staying up all night at the last minute. 5

6 Word limits All essays have a word limit. This may vary. Footnotes and bibliography are generally not included in the word limit. Please check the specific requirements for each essay carefully. See also section 1.3. of the Guidelines on presentation and submission of UG coursework (assessed essays) The word limit for an essay has been determined as the appropriate space in which to answer the questions set. Although you may feel that the word limit imposed does not allow you to say all that you would like to say, you should realise that the word limit tests your ability to express yourself in a concise and succinct manner. You will be required to state the number of words in your essay and this will help you to keep up to the word limit established. Failure to comply with the word limits can have negative consequences on the mark given to your essay. Timing & Submission Deadlines See also section 3 of the Guidelines on presentation and submission of UG coursework (assessed essays) The Faculty Office will publish the date on which you must submit your essay. You will need to plan things accordingly. Always check the deadline for submission in advance and keep to it. This will work to your best advantage as it will allow you to write your essay in good time and appropriately. Be aware that there is a standard system of penalties in the School of Law in relation to late submission. Plagiarism See also section 4 of the Guidelines on presentation and submission of UG coursework (assessed essays) where plagiarism and the consequences of plagiarising are explained very clearly. You must not plagiarise. What does this mean exactly? It means that you cannot use someone else s work without proper acknowledgement and use it as if it were your own. This would be equal to theft, that is, stealing someone else s ideas and make them appear as if they were yours. Plagiarism is a serious offence and will always result in imposition of a penalty. Why is it considered such a serious offence? First of all, the School of Law aims at ensuring that lawyers, whether future academics or practitioners, work in accordance with rules of good practice. Second, as mentioned previously, it is very important that you understand that what is expected of you, when you write an essay, is that you are able to demonstrate your knowledge and full understanding of what you are writing and in doing so you must use and develop your own analytical and problem-solving skills. The examiner will also be able to assess the originality of your work. These skills, also called transferable skills, are going to be pivotal in your career, once you 6

7 graduate. Not only will they boost your confidence but they will also enable you to solve cases or to overcome situations of particular difficulty. You will not gain anything from plagiarism. On the contrary, the consequences may be extremely negative and result in a mark equal to zero, failing the course or expulsion from the University. 7

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