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School of Law

Critical Thinking and Writing in Law

The Critical Thinking and Writing in Law programme is a specialised series of interactive lectures offered by Queen Mary University of London. It is designed to help you improve your legal writing and research skills and help you to meet all the linguistic requirements of your Law LLM, MSc or PhD.

Queen Mary LLM students sitting in a seminar with laptops.English possesses the largest vocabulary of any language in the world. That certainly allows for great variety of expression and shades of meaning. However, so much choice can be overwhelming as you grapple with words that you assume are alike but may change your intended meaning. Communicating your judgements and comments unambiguously within your postgraduate written assignments can prove to be a frustratingly elusive process.

The programme has evolved through analysis of the written work of former students over the years. This has revealed the linguistic areas that challenge most students and shows where mistakes are likely to occur. With this knowledge, Critical Thinking and Writing in the Law aligns tasks, discussion, and practice within the classroom to the writing demands of our postgraduate law degrees to greatly increases the chances of your success.

The course

Critical Thinking and Writing in the Law classes run in both semesters and are available to all full-time Queen Mary law postgraduate students. Students accepted by Queen Mary on a condition and/or those taking the summer Pre-sessional English programme are required to attend semester one.

Critical Thinking and Writing in the Law has no formal assessment or grading. Its rationale and emphasis is explicitly geared towards helping you respond successfully to the linguistic requirements of our postgraduate law degrees. Students can sharpen their language skills outside class time by attempting weekly automated tasks. These build on the language skills covered in the class and allow students to practise and gain confidence. Each task generally takes between 10-15 minutes and students will be offered immediate feedback and explanation to their responses on submission.

Semester One: Literacy Development - EAL4791

  • Pointers on stylistic conventions in writing academically in law. How to be succinct and adhere to word limits. These are highly desirable on our postgraduate law degrees and for writing generally;
  • Advice, guidance and practice in the processes connected to locating a viable range of relevant source material for written assignments;
  • Focus on primary legal sources such as legislation and the common law, as well as journals. Selected examples designed to help students navigate these different genres, widen knowledge and understanding of associated vocabulary and foster a keener sense of what types of language within these genres is, and is not, appropriate for inclusion in their course writing;
  • Recommendations on the macro-organisation of course essays;
  • Guidance on referencing source material;
  • Practice, advice and options in the organisation and unity of ideas and arguments in your writing, for example coherence and cohesion;
  • The necessity of providing a critical dimension to your writing at postgraduate law level; what this means in theory and practice.

Outside the weekly Critical Thinking and Writing in the Law provision, set-piece sessions are also offered to help students in the writing of their research proposals (relevant to all those writing a dissertation). In addition, sessions are provided that take students through the recommended processes for addressing exam questions.

Semester Two - Dissertation Writing (EAL4792)

These classes are available and suitable to all postgraduate law students at Queen Mary, not only to those writing a dissertation.

  • Revisiting the research proposal; identifying potentially viable strands of research and establishing scope on the condition that the most successful submissions are always relevant, focused and useful;
  • Conventions on the process of incorporating quoted material within writing;
  • Literature reviews: what they are, where they are generally located and how to provide them effectively in writing;
  • Deeper analysis, practice and consideration of how and where a student can communicate their “voice” critically within their writing. Without a critical element infused within students’ writing, it is impossible to gain a distinction at this level;
  • Assessment of selected extracts from the writing of former and successful postgraduate law candidates’ dissertations: reviewing introductions, conclusions and abstracts. This is not purely for imitation as one size does not fit all on the LLM but instead to identify and isolate areas of good practice that should be applied to other academic writing;
  • Presentation skills: although the LLM is overwhelmingly a writing-centric qualification, the skills and practice of presenting inform have tended to improve student research as well as equip students with valuable skills that will serve them in after they graduate;
  • Skills associated with editing and proofreading: essential to master as written quality impacts on student attainment,
Even though I was confident with my language skills, CTWL helped me to put my answers in a much more structured way. The course contributed a lot to my dissertation and probably was the element that pushed my dissertation to the distinction level.
— Mert Dicle, Critical Thinking and Writing in the Law

Registration and attendance

Critical Thinking and Writing in the Law classes run in both semesters and are available to all LLM, MSc and PhD law students at Queen Mary.

If students were accepted by Queen Mary on a condition and/or those taking the summer pre-sessional English programme are required to attend semester one. Semester two is optional for all students, but attendance is encouraged to build key skills needed for success in their postgraduate law programme.

Classes run for two hours each week for 10 weeks in semesters one and two. Students should enrol themselves via MySIS where they should look for a class on a day and time that is convenient around their other LLM, MSc and PhD commitments. Classes are taught at both Lincoln's Inn Fields (LIF) and Mile End (ME) and they tend to fill up quickly. Attendance is monitored carefully by CCLS. A short report is written on the performance and participation of each regularly-attending student by the Critical Thinking and Writing in the Law teacher.

Frequently asked questions about Critical Thinking and Writing in the Law:

Do I need to attend the same class each week?

Ideally yes. You enrol expecting to attend the same time and day for the entire 10 weeks of a semester. This is better for you, more cohesive for the class and allows your teacher to help you more effectively. However, if your timetable changes or you are unwell, you should attend another Critical Thinking and Writing in the Law class available that week and then return to your original class that you enrolled yourself on the following week.

So if I can’t attend class on a given week, what should I do?

Be sure to inform the teacher of the new class as well as your regular teacher. Regular attendance is important and monitored.

I have been accepted with a condition. How do I satisfy that condition?

You will fulfill this condition by attending at least 8 out of the 10 weekly sessions of semester one. This also applies to any student that has attended any months of the summer Pre-Sessional English Programme.

Can I attend Semester 2's dissertation writing classes if I am not writing one?

Yes- a dissertation is, after all, only a longer form of the essay so it is anticipated that semester 2 will benefit these students too.

Do I need to enrol on MySIS each week?

No. You only need to enrol once and this booking will apply to the entire semester unless you amend it. However, you will need to enrol again to attend semester two classes, and, again this enrolment will cover all of the ten weeks in the semester.

Is attendance of semester 2 mandatory if I have been accepted with a condition?

No- only semester one. However, the vast majority of Critical Thinking and Writing in the Law attendees over both semesters elect to attend classes as they have no condition.

I am a native English speaker. Would this course benefit me?

Almost certainly, yes. There are likely to be items that can be usefully extracted from each of the week’s taught provision. Over the years,  British, American, Irish and many other L1 English speakers have regularly attended the weekly sessions.

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