A literature survey is normally a focus on relevant literature in the area of research. Within the definition of literature, we can include both classic literature (articles, books, chapters and like documents) as well as other relevant literature (reports by national and international bodies, briefings, position papers, analyses and other research by NGOs, statements by national and international bodies and individual actors etc).
The purpose here is to use your analysis of the literature to help support you to make an argument that responds to the question being asked in your topic area. As such, your analysis of the literature has to be balanced, i.e., it must consider both those things that support your argument as well as the things that challenge or deny the validity of your argument.
You must also be able to assess the quality of the literature you identify in your research, going beyond the materials already supplied. Quality is essential and you must come to a judgment on the materials you find that is both critical and carefully weighed. In other words, the better the materials, the more believable and cogent your arguments will be.
Presentation of your Coursework
- At the end of your Coursework, include a copy of your Bibliography and any Tables of Cases/Statutes.
- Coursework should be word processed and well-presented. A good example would be to use Times New Roman font size 12 with your margins aligning with the Microsoft Word default/normal settings (top margin and bottom margins 2.54 cm and left and right margins 2.54 cm).
- Consider using double-spacing for clarity as it looks good and is clear to read.
- Page numbers should be used.
- Ensure spacing in text and footnotes is regular and uniform. It looks sloppy otherwise.
- Avoid the use of symbols. For example, “+” should read “and”, “@” should read “at”.
- Avoid contractions. For example, use “Do not” as opposed to “don’t”.
Structure of your Coursework
Headers: Use headers to identify the parts of your work. At the very least, there must be 3: The Introduction, the Main Text and the Conclusion or Summary.
Wordage: Do not write long paragraphs. Cut or break up the text into manageable portions around single ideas or themes. Do NOT use bullet points.
Referencing/Use of Sources
Many of the general comments here relate to referencing and the proper use of sources. The purpose of proper referencing is to avoid an accusation of bad academic practice or the commission of an academic offence (including plagiarism). Further information about the Academic Offences is set out in the Module Handbook.
In any event, irrespective of whether you intended to plagiarise or not, failing to properly source your work or to indicate how the sources used relate to your argument, renders your research useless or of dubious value. It is unlikely that such work will receive good marks.
Most common errors tend to be:
1. Referencing System: You must adhere to the OSCOLA system of referencing for your work. As such, you must use footnotes and avoid using in-line referencing or end-notes.
2. Verbatim quotes must appear within quotation marks: Not to do so is extremely serious and can lead to an accusation of plagiarism.
3. Avoid over-quoting. This shows that you are over-reliant on other people’s ideas and have not adequately formed your own.
4. There is a difference between “Ibid.” and “Op. cit”: Ibid. means the information in this footnote is the same as the previous footnote (although you can add “at [new page number]” where the text carries on the discussion at a later page). Op. cit. means the information in this footnote comes from a text (book, journal, etc) cited some time ago in the footnotes: e.g., Gray and Gray, op. cit (footnote 17 above) at paragraph 12.345. Op. cit. is not used for cases/statutes, only bibliographic items (books, chapters, articles). On the other hand, ibid. can be used for most things.
5. Internet sources are of differing values: Academic, government and lawyers’ websites are generally trustworthy. On-line encyclopaedias (Wikipedia, law student blogs, clickbait websites etc) are of very dubious value. You must NOT use any website that has been pointed out in lectures as being an unacceptable source (including LawTeacher and student blogs).
6. It is not acceptable to refer to older editions of major texts, such as Gray and Gray, Stevens and Pearce, Thompson, where a newer edition exists.
7. No book should be cited if it begins with NUT, e.g. Nutshells, etc. The Module Handbook and Lecture Materials (Panoptos and Slides) should also not be cited. Apart from the key sources identified, you should also be considering researching more widely.
8. A bibliography is only for books, chapters and articles. It is not for cases, statutes, internet sources, etc. Tables may be used for these. You should not only mention in the bibliography works you have used to construct your text, works cited in the bibliography should also be referenced in the footnotes (and vice versa).
9. Any references to cases should include reference to the relevant page (and/or paragraph) numbers where these are available. The same applies for articles accessed via any one of the databases used in Law.
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