The word limit for the dissertation is 10,000 words, which excludes all appendices and footnotes and a bibliography.
The essence of a dissertation is a thesis; the validation of a perspective on an issue or theme a student is committed to. For example the thesis will either, (a) call for law reform in a chosen area, (b) urge that a particular statement of law must be constructed in a particular way, or, (c) stipulate that the origin of a given regime of law is a particular set of social and economic factors. A narrative of what other people have written is not enough.
The dissertation ought to have a logical structure. For example;
o The problem
o the origins of the problem
o the impact of the problem
o previous attempts to solve the problem and their effect
o the proposed solution
o and any positive or negative implications of such a proposed solution
Clarity of thought is very essential when writing. Each stage of the argument should be clearly visible. To this end signposting is an important devise in aiding clarity. For example a student may proceed as follows ‘I have shown the reasons in favour of this approach to law; I will now consider and refute the most important arguments against it.’
Arguments must appear in paragraphs – a paragraph states an argument while a sentence states a thought.
The Parts of the Dissertation’s Structure
A dissertation must have a beginning, a middle and an end to it.
The introduction alerts the reader to the contents of the dissertation and also allows the reader to grasp at an early stage the meaning of the title.
When writing an introduction the student is expected to:
o Interpret the title… The student must clearly state what they understand the title to mean.
o State the thesis. The argument to be used in response to the demands of the title must be stated. In other words, the student must alert the reader to the central theme of the dissertation.
o State briefly how the question is going to be answered. The student must outline the structure of the argument to be used and, therefore, the structure of the dissertation.
The middle constitutes the bulk of the written work. The student is expected to:
o summarise/synthesise the normal understanding of the topic – this includes references to sources – cases, seminal articles etc
o analyse that material
o criticise it
o and then put forward their own thesis or perspective.
o The student must not merely repeat their argument but also stipulate the implications of the thesis advanced.
The dissertation must have proper references. The student must use footnotes and not endnotes. The footnotes must be brief and to the point. They ought to point to the sources of the material cited in the dissertation. Footnotes must largely be used to cite articles, books, reports, cases, statutes, etc.
Footnotes must be used prudently. The inclusion of too many direct quotes in the dissertation may reduce the grade the student will obtain – imprudent use of footnotes may suggest laziness and lack of understanding. Resist the urge to put trivial and irrelevant facts or issues in a footnote. Footnotes should not to be used to explain an important point and such a point must appear in the body of the dissertation.
The Department of Law does not prescribe a style of citation or bibliographic referencing. The Department does, however, recommend that a student uses a bibliographic style commonly used in legal writing. Furthermore, the student must be consistent in the style used. The student may consult
o The Oxford Standard for Citation Of Legal Authorities (OSCOLA)
The word limit and other formal requirements
The dissertation must be no more than 10,000 words in length.
This word limit excludes the following required elements:
Cover page: this sets out the title of the dissertation, degree programme and the word count.
Bibliography: This comes after the conclusion. It includes all the sources cited in the dissertation. Other works may be cited if they have been useful in writing the dissertation. The bibliography must not include statutes, treaties and cases. These must appear but you in a separate table or tables. The details of the publisher and place of publication must be included in the bibliography.
Table of contents:
Table (s) of statutes/treaties/cases:
Appendices: Appendices must not include material that belongs in the body of the text.
Footnotes: The word limit excludes footnotes. Do not use endnotes. The student must remember, however, that the proper use of footnotes is for citation or referencing. They should not to be used to make substantive points. Such substantive points should appear in the body of the essay. Moving text into footnotes may seem like a quick fix to allow you to comply with the word limit, but it will damage the quality of your dissertation and result in a correspondingly lower mark.
The dissertation must comply with the Law Department’s format requirements for LLM and MLS dissertations which are as follows:
o Paper: A4 size, Portrait form
o Font: Times New Roman
o Font size: 12
o Margins: All 1 inch (2.54 cm)
o Line spacing: 1.5
o Footnotes font size: 10
o Page numbering: All pages should be numbered in the following style: “Page x of x” where the first x represents the current page number, and the second x the total number of pages. Such numbering should appear either at the very top or very bottom of each page
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