Essay Writing Tips: How to Write a First Class Law Essay
Distinction and first class quality law essay writing is an art whose objective is to draw an intellectually stimulating and comprehensive picture of the subject matter for the reader. In order to achieve high marks on a piece of legal literature, it is important that you are aware of how to write a top quality law essay that inevitably holds analytical depth. You should always endeavour to critique the law, and this is done by providing solid justifications for your criticisms backed by appropriate authorities which may or may not include judicial approaches in cases and academic views in journal articles etc.
Many students, when writing law essays, will be criticised for being too descriptive. A descriptive essay is one that simply states what the law is, with little or no analysis of the law. Essays require critical evaluation of the law. Accordingly, an essay that is largely descriptive will not answer the question being set, and so will struggle to attract even a lower second-class mark.
This might sound obvious advice, but many law students are keen to show off everything they have learned, irrespective of whether it is actually relevant to the question. Answer the question that is being asked - do not fall into the trap of answering the question that you hoped would be asked. If the question clearly requires discussion of contentious issues within a specific area of law, do so. Any irrelevant material you include wastes time and space that could be spent discussing relevant material, and shows the examiner that you have not fully understood the question. The best answers are always focused, detailed and analyse the topic with precision.
Below are a number of pointers that form the fundamental formulae to writing a high quality academic essay in the field of law. However, with minor changes, these pointers can be used as a guide to writing an essay in any subject discipline. This guide can be applied both as an aid during the process of writing coursework essays and a reminder during exam practice.
1. Read the question
This is the most basic pointer and one which is told to every student across the land regardless of their level of study. However, the consequences of not reading and understanding a question properly, often something that happens as a relief or through a rush of adrenaline, can mean only half the question is answered at best or, at worst, the answer you provide does not address the question at all.
2. Read around the subject area
Academic writing is significantly more than a summary of the law or subject area. Often, depending on the question, there will be a wealth of journal articles and books written which go further than a “student textbook” in that they do not stop at describing the law but instead provide a critique – it is this critique that your examiner will be looking for! Reading and researching around the law is a vital skill and one which develops through the application of skill and practice.
Finding sources of information and reading the law quickly: begin by reading your textbook, this will often have footnotes containing articles which are of interest. Note down these articles and read them. When reading an article, start with the abstract, then look at the introduction and conclusion, these parts will give you an idea as to whether the article is relevant to your research and whether it is worth reading. When reading an article, conduct the same exercise you did with the textbook: look for citations to journals and books and consider reading them. In this way, with little effort, you will have significantly broadened both the quality and the quantity of your research. What’s more, broadening your research in this way will help make your essay unique and ensure the examiner is engaged and interested throughout.
3. Make a plan
It is always tempting to begin writing now that you have read numerous articles and books and have appreciated the significance of the contentious legal issues in this area. However, this can be dangerous. With a simple but comprehensive plan which outlines your thoughts and the structure you wish to present your arguments, you may find that your essay lacks the impressive structure that is required of a high quality piece of work. Also, without planning there is a danger of contradicting yourself. For example, it is to introduce your argument as leaning towards a particular direction, however, without a plan you may find that the resources and evidence you use in the body of the essay is contradictory to your initial argument but you make no mention of this as you had not planned to do so. A coherent argument must begin with a plan!
4. Begin Drafting
You should only begin drafting once the main part of your research and your plan has been completed. It is worth drafting the body of the essay before you begin to draft your introduction or conclusion. The reason for this is that this allows you to ensure that your introduction is a true and accurate description of the arguments you have presented to the reader. If you happen to alter slightly then this can change the course of one of your arguments but if you have not made the same change in your introduction you will once again be in a position where you may contradict yourself.
Once the main body has been drafted, you should review and amend this and leave writing the introduction and dissertation until the end. Your main body should be separated into paragraphs with a different argument being given its own paragraph. Some commentators argue that it is best to ensure that you select your two strongest arguments and place one at the beginning of the main body and one at the end, doing this means the examiner will begin reading with a good impression of the writer and end with a good impression too. Weaker or less significant arguments should be placed in the middle of the main body.
When drafting your introduction and conclusion, ensure that you are topical. If you are going to discuss something which is very recent and has received a lot of media attention you should mention the attention (this shows you can link law within the wider context). An example would be mentioning the impact of the economic recession when writing an essay on corporate governance or insolvency. Be interesting as this helps your work stand out and puts the reader in a good frame of mind from an early point. Also, the important of the problem or issue you are going to discuss should be emphasised.
5. Review your work
It is important to allow yourself sufficient time to review your work. On a practical level this will allow you time to rectify any spelling or grammatical errors. From an academic perspective, reviewing your work gives you the opportunity to reflect on what you have written and ensure your arguments are as strong as possible.
Ask a critical friend: reading your own work is important but you can overlook errors as your mind is pre-empting your eyes. Asking a friend to review your work and highlight any errors and provide advice on ways in which the work can be improved will give you a strong idea of how the examiner will react to your work. Law Essay Help provides a proofreading service which ensures your work is read by a tutor with a sound understanding of the area of law on which you are writing.
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