LAW 700 - Legal Research Methodology and Advanced Writing

A course designed to provide students with the research skills required for law postgraduate studies at the University of Auckland.

Course details

Semester One and Two
Study mode Intensive
Dates 27-28 February and 1 March 2019 (Semester 1)
17-19 July 2019 (Semester 2)
Times 9-5pm
Venue Algie Lecture theatre, Level 2 Building 801
Point value 0

Course Director

Bronwyn Davies


Xiaowei Ding
Nicky Rawnsley

Course description

This course introduces you to higher level research and writing skills to help you excel in your postgraduate law studies.

1. Legal research is a process.
It involves far more than finding relevant materials. The process starts with initial analysis and involves broad investigation. You must be able to identify, refine and evaluate legal sources. You must also be very mindful of research ethics including citation and referencing.

2. Your writing will expand the existing body of legal scholarship.
The demands of writing at this high level will extend your already well-developed writing skills. You must be able to capture, organise and present complex legal information and you must be able to distill and present your ideas clearly. Your writing must be well-structured, authoritative and compelling. Prepare to expand your existing writing skills.

3. Your writing will be informed by numerous sources.
In this short, introductory course, you will see the many resources available to you through the University of Auckland Library - with particular emphasis on the Davis Law Library and its collections.

Teaching aims

Teaching Aims for legal Research

A. On completion of Day 1, you should have:
• a working knowledge of the legal research process.
• an appreciation of the obligations imposed by research ethics.
• awareness of the scope of the available resources in the Davis Law Library.
• foundational knowledge on how to conduct research across legal jurisdictions.

B. Building from this foundation, you will then go on to develop skills to:
• create a structured initial analysis of a research question or problem.
• find relevant primary and secondary sources.
• write a research essay using correct referencing techniques in line with the New Zealand Law Style Guide.

Teaching Aims for Advanced Legal Writing

The intended learning outcomes for this introductory session are to help you:
• get a sense of what’s involved in writing at this advanced level.
• recognise good (and bad) writing techniques.
• comply with relevant writing conventions and formalities used in postgraduate writing.

On Days 2 and 3 you will:
• consider the higher level writing skills used in postgraduate legal scholarship.
• review the formalities and writing requirements of postgraduate legal writing.


I. Legal Research is taught through full-group lectures on Day 1 followed by (optional) small-group database training workshops on:
• Lexis Advance
• Westlaw NZ
• IntelliConnect
• Westlaw International
On our Auckland Law School ‘Canvas’ learning platform you can also find learning material about multi-jurisdictional legal research for:
• Australia
• United Kingdom
II. Advanced Legal Writing is introduced on Day 2. The main focus is on the structure of writing at the postgraduate level. You will also be given key pointers on how to polish your writing skills.


No assessment on this course.
Attendance is compulsory.

Prescribed text

Alice Coppard and others New Zealand Law Style Guide (3rd ed, Thomson Reuters, Wellington, 2018).
Available online at

Recommended reading

Mary-Rose Russell (ed) Legal Research in New Zealand (LexisNexis, Wellington, 2016).
K79 L1 RUS Available on Davis Short Loan, 5 Day Loan and Main Collection.

Stephen Penk and Mary-Rose Russell New Zealand Legal Method Handbook (Thomson Reuters, Wellington, 2014).
KL28 PEN Available on Davis Short Loan and 5 Day Loan.

Richard Scragg (ed) Legal Writing: A Complete Guide for a Career in Law (LexisNexis, Wellington, 2015).
K101 SCR Available on Davis Short Loan and 5 Day Loan.

Terry Hutchinson Researching and Writing in Law (3rd ed, Thomson Reuters (Professional) Australia, Pyrmont (NSW), 2010).
K79 K1 HUT 2010 Available on Davis Short Loan and 5 Day Loan.

Jenny Buxton, Susan Carter and Sean Sturm Punc Rocks: Foundation Stones for Precise Punctuation (2nd ed, Pearson, Auckland, 2012).
K105.2  BUX 2012 Available on Davis Short Loan, Quick Reference, 5 Day Loan.

Course topic Legal research skills Learning objectives - Research
Legal Research Process

On completion you should be able to:

• describe the legal research process
• create conceptual frameworks for a research plan
• use information in an ethical, principled and legal manner

On completion you should be able to:

• analyse a problem, distinguishing between factual and legal issues
• determine the legal question to be answered
• start researching confidently
• use conceptual frameworks to support your research
• devise competent search strategies
• evaluate information you find
• explain the issues facing researchers concerning plagiarism and copyright
• cite accurately from sources
• demonstrate correct referencing techniques for footnotes and bibliographies

Course topic Advanced Legal writing skills
Learning Objectives- Writing
Advanced Legal writing

On completion you should be able to:

• comply with the formalities required for advanced legal writing
• demonstrate the higher level writing skills which this process demands

On completion you should be able to:

• structure a sustained, higher level written paper
• complete the phases of the writing process at postgraduate level
• edit, review and refine your written work
• use relevant writing conventions, techniques and formalities to create a superior piece of legal scholarship.

LAW 700 Exemptions  
LLB Graduates from the University of Auckland Compulsory attendance: Morning Session Day 1
Exempted from the rest of the course including research essay
LLB Graduates from Common Law Jurisdictions

Compulsory attendance Day 1. Exempted from rest of the course including research essay
BCom (Hons) Compulsory attendance Day 1. Compulsory research essay. Rest of the course recommended. 
All other graduates (MLS, MTaxS) Compulsory attendance Days 1,2 & 3. Compulsory research essay.