5 Resources to use to find a Killer Law Dissertation Topic
By Christopher Mallon LLB, LLM, PhD Candidate and Private Tutor.
As a law dissertation tutor, I work with many law students who struggle to find a good law dissertation topic. It is certainly in top 10 requests I receive on a weekly basis.
Well never fear – help is here.
The key is to find a topic that is interesting and allows for critical debate.
The good news is that law students already have access to resources that can help. In this post, I will show you 5 resources to use to find a law dissertation topic.
1. The Law Commission website
The business of the Law Commission is law reform. The Commission is tasked with ensuring the law is fair, simple and modern.
You can bet their website is a pretty good resource for sparking a great law dissertation topic idea.
a. The news section
The site’s news section gives regular updates on law reform. The headlines can provide some current insight into law reform and can ignite ideas for you:
You can see a couple of headlines here. Using these as inspiration you might consider whether the current law is capable of providing a definite answer as to whether electronic signatures can be used to contract or whether legislation should be used.
Or you might investigate financial order reform if you prefer a family law or land law theme.
You can see from the diagram above that there is a search facility on the Law Commission website.
Just type in a keyword or phrase of a topic that interests you.
Then check out what comes up in the search results. You should come across some inspiration for a fantastic idea for your law dissertation.
b. The 13th Programme for Law Reform
The Law Commission has recently published its 13th Programme for Law Reform. What is it?
It is essentially a document indicating what legal reforms the Commission will consider over the next 2-3 years.
The Commission has ‘focused on reforms which will reduce unfairness for the citizen and those which will help to enhance the UK’s competitiveness internationally following our exit from the European Union.’
Some of these topics that the Law Commission will concentrate on include:
- A Modern Framework for Disposing of the Dead
- Administrative Review
- Automated Vehicles
- Electronic Signatures
- Employment Law Hearing Structures
- Intermediated Securities
- Modernising Trust Law for a Global Britain
- Museum Collections
- Registered Land and Chancel Repair Liability
- Residential Leasehold
- Simplifying the Immigration Rules
- Smart Contracts
- Unfair Terms in Residential Leasehold
You can download the full 49-page report here.
The report gives a small synopsis of each reform project. These can spark a really good idea in your mind and provide the first shoots of your dissertation project.
In addition, the report also outlines the ‘maybe’ projects. Projects that at present are not considered a primary focus for the Commission. The Commission’s loss could be your gain.
Check out those projects and see if any interest you for your law dissertation.
2. Lexis PSL
I admit it.
I love Lexis PSL.
There. I said it.
I know I sometimes sound like I am a shareholder in the company but I am not.
I just think it is a fantastic resource for law students generally and for a law dissertation project.
But how can it help you come up with a law dissertation topic?
3. The Supreme Court website
The website for the highest court in the land is our next stop.
One part of the Supreme Court website outlines appeals that will be heard by the Justices over the next few months. You can access a list of upcoming hearings here.
You should see a list similar to this:
How can this help with my dissertation?
Scroll down the list and spot a case that interests you. You can see a brief synopsis of the main legal issue in the case under the ‘case summary’ column. The main legal issue in the case is usually framed as a question. With some editing this could become the research question for your dissertation.
Let’s take an example of an upcoming case:
As you can see the question for the Supreme Court is:
Whether non-clinically trained reception staff at an A&E department owed a tortious duty of care to the appellant to provide him with accurate information regarding waiting times.
With a small adjustment this can become a dissertation topic.
Top Tip: start your research question with ‘Ought’ or ‘Should’ and make sure it
can be stated in one sentence to ensure that your research topic is critical and precise.
Your research question could become:
Ought non-clinically trained reception staff at an A&E department owed a tortious duty of care when providing waiting time information to patients?
4. The “Thesis” PDF trick
This little trick is great.
You are not the first law student to write a law dissertation.
Thousands have come before you.
And the majority of law dissertations tend to find themselves made public at some stage.
This is usually through a University library website.
This method is not a license for you to copy a student’s dissertation.
I repeat. This is not an excuse for plagiarism.
You are merely trying to see what ideas other students have come up with to help inspire your own idea. This could be extending, challenging, refining or updating something that you see in a published dissertation.
If you want to see high-level work at Ph.D. level on your topic area add the words ‘partial fulfilment’ to your search terms.
All Ph.D. thesis have a title page which states that a thesis is being submitted as ‘partial fulfilment of the requirements of a Ph.D.’
Including ‘partial fulfilment’ in your Google search means you will pick these up in your search.
The literature reviews in these pieces can be a really good first step for you in finding out what the current law/debate/theory is in this area.
5. Guardian Law
Before we begin.
Other UK newspapers do exist.
However, I prefer the Guardian.
First, unlike the Times you do not need to pay for access.
Second, the depth of detail is just about right.
How can the Guardian help you come up with a dissertation topic?
Well – this one is an easy one.