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Legal Systems and Research Methods - LAW00090M

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  • Department: The York Law School
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Dimitrios Tsarapatsanis
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2024-25
    • See module specification for other years: 2023-24

Module summary

The overall objective of the module is to help provide a context within which you will study other modules of the LLM programmes. It provides (a) an introduction to different legal regimes, (b) a foundation for understanding English law in relation to other jurisdictions and (c) a preparation for the dissertation module. This means that you will be introduced to some different theoretical and methodological frameworks across different legal jurisdictions, which are necessary for a fuller appreciation of the international context of law. In addition, the module will introduce you to legal skills in relation to locating legal sources and prepare you for drafting an effective dissertation proposal.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 1 2024-25

Module aims

This module will be a compulsory element of the LLM degree, to prepare students for the rest of the taught course. It will provide an introduction to the study of comparative law, a foundation for understanding the study of English law in so far as it is relevant to the rest of the course, and the skills required to successfully complete a dissertation. These skills will be developed through lectures, seminars and exercises on relevant legal topics.

The principal aims are:

  • To give students a grounding in the understanding of the difference between common law systems (such as England) and civil law systems
  • To develop techniques and methodologies of studying law in a comparative manner, including reading cases and statutes/codes and undertaking legal research
  • To give students an awareness of the usefulness of studying law comparatively, in the context of internationalisation of law
  • To develop techniques and methodologies appropriate to legal research and applicable to their own work
  • To introduce students to the process of formulating and developing questions suitable for advanced legal research and designing a research framework around those questions
  • To equip students with the skills needed to complete a substantial piece of independent legal research

Module learning outcomes

Subject content

  • An ability to classify different legal systems
  • An understanding of some key similarities and differences between common law systems (such as English law) and civil legal systems
  • An ability to identify sources and institutions of public and private international law
  • An ability to undertake legal research (including finding and using primary sources such as cases and statutes/codes and secondary sources such as academic journal articles) from the University library and its on-line resources
  • An understanding of research methodologies appropriate to legal research and applicable to their own work
  • An ability to identify a legal issue that has the potential to be the subject of legal research

Academic and graduate skills

  • Act autonomously and in a group to define legal problems and determine how to research legal issues relevant to those problems
  • Critically evaluate and understand relevant theoretical and methodological frameworks in different legal jurisdictions
  • Make use of appropriate legal materials
  • Begin the practice of reflecting critically on their own learning in the course
  • Carry out independent research on a topic related to law
  • Act autonomously in developing a research proposal and plan
  • Identify, locate and use relevant primary sources
  • Critically analyse and engage with a wide range of the secondary literature relevant to their topic
  • Construct coherent and logical arguments at an advanced level, addressing theoretical, doctrinal and policy issues relevant to their chosen issue
  • Make use of appropriate referencing techniques
  • Apply what they have learned in the preparation for and writing up of the dissertation

Module content

The module will provide:

  • an introduction to different types and families of legal systems
  • an introduction to the main research methodologies employed in the study of law (e.g., doctrinal, empirical, philosophical, critical, historical and comparative)
  • an introduction to practical elements of carrying out a dissertation research project, including:
    • research design (connecting research topic, research question and research method);
    • locating sources
    • reading critically;
    • constructing arguments
    • referencing correctly

These skills and knowledge will be facilitated through seminars and exercises.


Task Length % of module mark
Essay : Reflective report
N/A 50
Essay : Research proposal
N/A 50

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
Essay : Reflective report
N/A 50
Essay : Research proposal
N/A 50

Module feedback

Individual feedback form with reference to assessment criteria returned at end of term 1

Indicative reading

M Siems, Comparative Law (Cambridge University Press, 2nd edition, 2018)

K Zweigert & H Koetz, An Introduction to Comparative Law (Oxford University Press, 3rd edition, 1998)

M. Salter and J. Mason Writing Law Dissertations: An Introduction and Guide to the Conduct of Legal Research (Longman, 2007)

G. Griffin, M. McConville and Wing Hong Chui, Research Methods for Law (Edinburgh University Press, 2007)

S. Halliday (ed) An Introduction to the Study of Law (W Green & Sons, 2012)

The Oxford Standard for Citation of Legal Authorities (4th edition, 2010)

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.