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How To Write An Essay For Legal Studies

There are countless ways to stylistically complete an academic essay.  Here are some examples of how students have successfully done so, while maintaining proper academic structure.

Introduction

A proper introduction should:

  • Introduce main arguments
  • Have an attention grabbing first sentence 
  • Provide concise information about broader significance of topic
  • Lead in to the body of the essay
 

Here are three examples of introduction paragraphs.  They have been re-written several times to illustrate the difference between excellent, good and poor answers. For a close reading of the examples, click the images below.

 

Example 1Example 2Example 3

 

The Body

The body of your essay should:

  • Address one idea per paragraph
  • Support arguments with scholarly references or evidence
  • Contextualise any case studies or examples 

Style

  • Use correct punctuation and proofread your work
  • Keep writing impersonal (do not use 'I', 'we', 'me')
  • Be concise and simple 
  • Be confident ("The evidence suggests..." rather than "this could be because...")
  • Connect paragraphs so they flow and are logical
  • Introduce primary and secondary sources appropriately
  • Avoid using too many quotations or using quotes that are too long
  • Do not use contractions (you’re, they’d)
  • Do not use emotive language ("the horrific and extremely sad scene is evidence of...")

This example illustrates how to keep an essay succinct and focused, by taking the time to define the topic:

Defining a topic

The following paragraphs demonstrate how to engage with a variety of scholarly material including primary sources, scholarly theories and formal statistics:

Introducing sources

Lastly, this paragraph illustrates how to engage with opposing arguments and refute them:

Conclusion

A proper conclusion should:
  • Sum up arguments
  • Provide relevance to overall topic and unit themes
  • Not introduce new ideas 
Here are two examples of conclusion paragraphs which have been re-written several times to illustrate the difference between excellent, good and poor answers.

Example 1                                                           Example 2

 

A Legal Studies paper is out of 100 marks.

Over half of those marks come from essay-based questions. 65 marks, to be precise.

So it’s pretty clear that nailing your long-responses in Legal is crucial to doing well and this thorough analysis of top answers will teach YOU how to Band 6-ify Your HSC Legal Studies Extended Responses!

Knowledge of the course content is important, obviously. But ultimately, having all the knowledge in the world isn’t useful if you aren’t able to organise the information into a concise, coherent and persuasive response is equally important.

This article will not only try to cover, step-by-step, how to write a band 6 response for Legal Studies, but dispel some common Legal Studies essay-writing myths.

The Practice Question

For the purpose of making this article relevant to all Legal students, I will be using the example of the shorter Crime essay throughout from the 2015 HSC. This should be around 600 words.

The same general essay-writing principles this article details also apply to the longer essay questions in Section III (the two options). The main difference is that these two should be longer and more detailed/more examples given, compared to the Crime essay. These should be approximately 1000 words.

 

Step 1: Introduction

General statement

First of all, make an indisputable general statement about the topic area. This should not be controversial, or a subjective argument.

Usually, it is safest to generally describe the topic in a contemporary sense.

Example: “Various intermingling domestic and international measures exist which aim to deal with transnational crime”.

Thesis

Is it absolutely crucial you directly answer the question. There’s no time to beat around the bush.

It is painfully common that students simply describe the domestic and international measures used to deal with international crime. DO NOT DO THIS. You are telling the marker how effective they are. It is an argumentative, critical response.

Exactly how effective are domestic and international measures in dealing with international crime? Quantify this – describe precisely what your viewpoint is. Very effective? Not effective at all? Kind of effective?

Whatever your response (and there is not one correct answer, it’s all about how good your argument is as a whole!), this is your main line of argument/thesis.

Example: “Domestic and international measures have only been somewhat effective in engaging with, and combatting this type of crime due to *insert reason*”.

Outline your argument

Now that you’ve outlined your thesis, you have to list the reasons why. You’re describing what topics/issues your essay will cover in order to prove your thesis. 

Generally listing the topic areas is sufficient. You do not need to get into too much depth.

Example: “This is evident in the areas of *list your topics*”.

Example

 

Step 2: Body

Topics

As seen in the example above (last sentence), this essay will prove its thesis by exploring four points: drugs trafficking, arms trade, people smuggling and money laundering. Therefore, your body will have four parts.

This usually means four paragraphs, with one per section. However, if one of your topics is more easily understood when explained in two paragraphs, there is nothing to prevent you from doing so.

What is important is making sure you maintain a balanced argument. Don’t write 6 paragaphs on one of your points, and squish the last three into a paragraph. Try to place an equal amount of weight on all your topics.

 

Paragraph Structure

Begin each paragraph with a topic sentence. As in an English essay, this sentence serves to explain what you will cover in the paragraph, and how that relates to the question/your thesis.

These need to be clear, as they mark the logical progression of your argument.

Example: “The difficulty of cooperation between nationals reveals the ineffectiveness of international measures in dealing with transnational crime, which is clearly demonstrated in the prevalence of drug trafficking.”

After this, you need to explain your idea. There are many acronyms to use, but my favourite is EEE: Explain, Elaborate, Example.

You don’t necessarily have to use this if you’re writing perfectly coherent and flowing paragraphs. But for the majority of us, following this structure ensures a good paragraph.

Example: “[Explain:] The inability of countries to create coherent and consistent action against transnational crime and drug syndicates in particular highlight a major weakness in international measures against transnational crime. [Elaborate:] Despite the existence of anti-drug measures adopted internationally, such as the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs (1961) and the Convention against the Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (1988), the continued pervasiveness of large-scale drug trafficking reveals the inadequacy of these laws to target the root cause of international drug crime. [Example:] For example, Operation Dayu, a crackdown by Australian authorities on money laundering and drug trafficking centred in Macau, revealed the “monumental struggle against global, multibillion-dollar crime behemoths” (McKenzie, Sydney Morning Herald, 2013).”

Lastly, finish your paragraph with a linking sentence, which brings your point back to your thesis.

Example: “Therefore, it is clear that international measures to combat drug trafficking have not been effective in eliminating drug crime.”

 

Example

Step 3: Conclusion

This is where you re-state your thesis, which in other words, is re-phrasing it. Afterwards, re-state the points you have made, for the purpose of reinforcing your original point (thesis). At this point, do not add any new examples or ideas, ever!

Consider Buying Notes

If you need reliable notes or simply want to check your notes are right, take a look at HSC-Notes.com.

Their Legal notes are crafted by the 99+ ATAR Club and provide concise answers to the HSC Syllabus dot points with what you need to know for your exams. Diagrams, mind maps, tables, dot points, paragraphs, sources are included to aid your learning.

With these notes you can spend less time rewriting your textbook and worrying about whether your notes answer the syllabus dot points correctly and spend more time learning and practicing your skills knowing your notes are accurate and concise.

Head on over to HSC-Notes to get your HSC subject notes now

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Sophia Zou recently completed the HSC in 2013, so fortunately for AOS Community Blog-readers and perhaps less fortunately for her, the memories of Year 12 are still fresh in her head. Sophia considers it her mission here to help students make the most of their final years at high school. Her interests include political science, Simon and Garfunkel, and pretending to be a tea aficionado. Alongside tutoring at Art of Smart Education, she spends her time playing the piano and studying Government & IR and Languages at the University of Sydney.

 

 

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