Research Proposal Seminars
In Autumn Session the Faculty of Law runs a series of seminars to assist new postgraduate students to develop a research proposal, which is required within the first year of enrolment. The seminars are intended to be relevant to more experienced postgraduate students as well as to those with little research experience. Any student enrolled in a research degree in Law is welcome to participate in the seminar program. Commencing students are strongly encouraged to participate. Masters students enrolled in the subject LAW 994 are required to attend the seminars. In 2009 the Research Proposal Seminars will be led by Professor Luke McNamara.
Professor Luke McNamara
phone: 4221 3382
There are 5 x 2 hour seminars spread across Autumn Session. Students are expected to read relevant materials before each seminar. In some cases students will read different materials, of relevance to their type of research, and report back to the seminar. Discussion is focused on students' own research directions.
The theme of the seminars, of relevance to existing as well as to new postgraduate students, is the relationship between an area of interest, policy issues, legal implications and mechanisms, research questions, methods and argument.
It is expected that students will begin the seminars with an area of interest and a topic in mind. The topic will be of relevance to the law in some way, either to a substantive area of law (eg corporations law) or to a study of law itself in some context (eg representations of law or lawyers). The aim of the seminars, in parallel with the work students do with their supervisors, to develop this area of interest into a planned research program. The key focus is on designing research which will answer questions of direct relevance to the topic, with a view to organising a coherent thesis which reports on the results and draws solidly argued conclusions.
Most (though not all) postgraduate students in the Faculty of Law have a practical or policy interest in their field, as well as an intellectual interest. That is to say, students commonly seek to advance knowledge in an area with practical implications, so that the outcome of their research may be of practical value, as well as being an object of interest for its own sake. For this reason there will be some concentration in the seminars on the nature of policy analysis and arguments with policy implications.
To reach this point it is useful to compare and contrast various approaches to research and argument. Natural science, social science and law each has different approaches to argument and evidence. The seminars encourage students to appreciate those approaches appropriate to their own field of inquiry, including relevant data, styles of argument and warrants or standards of proof.
Having clarified the purpose and nature of their inquiry, students are expected to review the information that may be required to illuminate the field, to test their assumptions or to advance their arguments. This will be organised into research questions, that is to say, the questions which are to be answered in the course of doing the research. Once these are clarified, the research methods available to answer these questions are explored.
Students are given some guidance in the possible range of apropriate methods. These could be empirical or legal, quantitative or qualitative, evaluative or semiotic. However, the seminars are not a research methods course. Since the range of possible methods is vast, the purpose of the seminars are to explore which methods may be relevant to specific inquiries, and to provide students with some guidance as to how or where to find out more about the methods they will be using. This guidance may be available through reading, working with supervisors or other mentors, or doing courses in Law or another Faculty.
Finally, students work in seminars as well as with their supervisors to prepare suitable research proposals. Guidance is given as to the points to cover, and appropriate formatting and presentation techniques.
The 2009 timetable for the seminars, as well as resource material for the seminars is accessed through the Postgraduate Research in Law web site.
Self-directed and Library modules
In addition to participating in the seminars, students are encouraged to make useof the following resouces:
1. Library Postgraduate checklist. This checklist, prepared by the University's Law Librarians, ensures that students know all the facilities and resources available through the library, and directs them to any assistance they require to access them.
2. Timelines and supervision. To assist students in preparing a practical and realistic research proposal, this on-line module draws attention to the main tasks which need to be timetabled, and covers some of the resources and requirements of the unversity which need to be taken into account, such as working with supervisors, Human Research Ethics Committee requirements. The module provides links to relevant sections of the UoW website.
3. Thesis writing. With emphasis on the analysis of arguments and their relationship to the data, students are directed to on-line and published resources. This module also requires students to select a thesis, or a book which developed out of a thesis, and to analyse the structure of the thesis and its arguments, including the way the reporting of findings contributes to those arguments.
4. A wide range of workshops and seminars are available through the Higher Degree Research Student Seminar Series. This includes workshops on EndNote - a bibliographic management program which students are strongly encouraged to use.
5. EndNote bibliographies. Research students in Law are expected use the EndNote bibliography program.