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.

Semester Two, 2018


Day 1: 11th July 2018 - Algie Lecture Theatre
Day 2: 12th July 2018 - Room 201 Building 810
Day 3: 13th July 2018 - Room 340 Building 810

Course Director: Bronwyn Davies


Bronwyn Davies |
Tracey Thomas |
Nicky Rawnsley |
Xiaowei Ding |

Course description

This course is designed to introduce the legal research and writing skills that you will use as postgraduate students at the University of Auckland Law School.

1. You will receive information about the University of Auckland Library with emphasis on the Davis Law Library, its collections and resources.

Legal research goes beyond simply finding material. The different elements of the legal research process which are canvassed in this course include:

  • Initial topic analysis
  • Sourcing relevant and appropriate information
  • Research ethics

2. You will investigate the key stages and mechanics of writing at the postgraduate level and you will be offered introductory tools to help you get started with the process of writing.

Writing a sustained research essay at the postgraduate level involves a clear understanding of this university’s expectations about:

  • Structure, formalities and organisation
  • The writing process

Teaching aims and intended student learning outcomes of the course

Day 1: Legal research

By the end of this session you will have reviewed:

  • The legal research process including:
    • The research tools and resources available at the Davis Law Library
    • Issues connected to research ethics
    • Researching across a variety of jurisdictions

Building on this broad foundation, students should be able to:

  • Draft a structured initial analysis of a research question or problem
  • Find appropriate primary and secondary sources to answer a legal research question
  • Use correct referencing techniques based on the New Zealand Law Style Guide

Day 2: Advanced legal writing

By the end of this session you will have reviewed:

  • The writing process involved at the postgraduate level in legal scholarship
  • Higher level writing skills demanded by this process

Building on this broad foundation, students should be able to:

  • Develop and refine advanced writing techniques
  • Comply with relevant writing conventions and formalities
  • Completion and submission of a superior piece of legal scholarship


The Legal Research elements of this course are delivered through lectures and optional database training workshops and these are complemented by additional online learning resources.

Training includes use of the following legal databases:

  • Lexis Advance
  • Westlaw NZ
  • IntelliConnect
  • Westlaw International
  • New Zealand legal journal articles
  • International legal journal articles

You may elect to either attend discrete database training workshops scheduled through the semester and/or you can use the autonomous online learning resources identified on the University’s online learning platform, ‘Canvas’. You will receive more information about these on Day 1.

Canvas also links you to multi-jurisdictional research material and instruction for these jurisdictions:

  • Australia
  • United Kingdom


This course is not assessable.

Attendance is, however, compulsory.

Prescribed text

Geoff McLay, Christopher Murray and Jonathon Orpin New Zealand Law Style Guide (2nd ed Thomson Reuters, Wellington, 2011).

Available online at

NOTE: The 3rd edition is due to be published on 31 July 2018. USE THIS 3RD EDITION FOR ALL OF YOUR RESEARCH ESSAYS.

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

To demonstrate:

  • The legal research process
  • Using conceptual frameworks

On completion of the course you will be able to:

  • Explain the legal research process
  • Analyse a problem, distinguishing between factual and legal issues
  • Determine the legal question presented by the facts
  • Identify the starting point for research
  • Use conceptual frameworks to assist with your research
  • Devise competent search strategies
  • Evaluate information found
  • Identify and explain the issues for researchers concerning plagiarism and copyright
  • Accurately cite from sources
Course topic Legal writing skills
Learning objectives writing
Legal writing

To confidently undertake and demonstrate:

  • The formal process of advanced legal scholarship
  • The higher level writing skills which this process demands

On completion of the course you will be able to:

  • Describe the structural and organisational features of a sustained piece of academic legal writing at the postgraduate level
  • Develop and refine advanced writing techniques
  • Comply with relevant writing conventions and formalities
  • Plan the writing process