Law Essays – Research & Referencing
So, we’re over halfway through December and I’ve hit that lovely time when I begin to procrastinate my EU law essay at around the 1500 word mark. Rather than just writing my own essay, I decided to write about my techniques for essay research and referencing because I think that perfecting these processes makes essay writing 100x easier! So, here’s my process:
(1) Make a research log
First things first, you want somewhere to store your research. Before you even open up the tab to start searching for sources, you need a table. The most important things to include in your research log are the name of the article, the author’s name, the date, quotes, paraphrased information, and any other comments.
Here’s an example of mine:
(2) Use your guidance
Your module should have some guidance on the essay you’re attempting to write and you should use it! If they give you any initial sources, go look at those first! If they set out ideas you should cover, write them down and use them as a focus point.
(3) Find academic literature
This is the part I can’t give much guidance on, other than how / where to search. Use your keywords (don’t forget you can use “_” to only find results that include a key phrase or – to remove a word / phrase from your search) and don’t be too specific or too broad. Use a combination of the library database, Google Scholar, and law databases like Westlaw.
(4) Decide if they are relevant
You should be able to decipher is a source is relevant or useful just from the abstract. That doesn’t mean you only need to use the abstract, though. You should skim through the entire piece, focusing on sub-headings and read anything that seems relevant. If there is anything that doesn’t seem relevant from the abstract, close the tab.
(5) Copy and paste into your research log!
Copy the article name, author, and all of your quotes into your log! I also like to add a hyperlink so that I can easily access it again when I’m writing the essay!
Go forth & write your essay. Use your sources whenever relevant & make sure you focus more on the critical analysis than the description 🙂
Now that you’ve hopefully finished writing the essay, it’s time for the worst part – referencing. BUT, hopefully it won’t be too bad if you follow these steps.
(1) Go back to your research log…
… and thank yourself for putting all of your sources in one place! If you look at the image I shared above, you’ll see I actually included a column to store your citations which you can then copy and paste into your essay! All the info is there so you don’t have to go looking for the articles you read at 3am and forgot the name of.
(2) Use a website / Chrome extension
I have never written a citation by myself. Use EasyBib or CiteThisForMe to easily create citations for whatever you’re reading! For law, make sure you select the OSCOLA format.
(3) Add your referencing
Go through your essay and add your in-text citations – if you want to make this extra easy, add in the space for the citation as you write the essay and then just copy and paste the actual citation later on. Here’s what I mean by that:
So that’s what my footnotes will look like throughout my essay, so that I know exactly what I need to reference and where! Then, I can just look to my research log, find the article and the citation, and copy it in!
(4) Make your bibliography
Don’t forget to then add all your sources to your bibliography as well! The websites above should give you an in-text citation and a bibliography citation, make sure you use them correctly. For OSCOLA, you should also have a Table of Authorities, if you don’t know what that is, you should probably have a look at this OSCOLA guide.
Happy essay writing!