Methodology of Legal Research


You will learn:

- the types of trabalho final available at NOVA

- how to distinguish between different types of academic papers 

- how to write a literature review and identify gaps in the literature

- how to use library resources and other databases available online, such as SSRN and Researchgate

- how to write a research plan

- how to use extra-legal knowledge in a law master thesis

- how to critically engage with other's work

- how to give an oral presentation

- how to give and receive comments to academic work


You will prepare a research plan. This activity will prepare you for the non-taught part of the master

General characterization





Responsible teacher

Fabrizio Esposito


Weekly - 3

Total - 36

Teaching language



Not Applicable


In addition to the materials made available on Moodle:

P Cserne and F Esposito, Economics in Legal Reasoning, Palgrave 2020

JC Dernbacg et al., A Practical Guide to Legal Writing and Legal Method, 7th Edition, Wolters Kluwer 2021

L Epstein and AD Martin, An Introduction to Empirical Legal Research, OUP 2014

S Hanson, Legal Method and Reasoning, 2nd Edition, Cavendish Publishing 2003

L Kestemont, Handbook on Legal Methodology: From Objective to Method, Intersentia 2018

L Lammasniemi, Law Dissertations: A Step-by-Step Guide, Routledge 2018

M Maginn, Making Teams Work: 24 Lessons for Working Together Successfully, Mc-Graw Hill 2004

M McConville and W Hong Chui, (eds), Research Methods for Law, 2nd Edition, Edinburgh University Press 2017

I McLeod, Legal Method, 9th Edition, Palgrave 2013

M Salter and J Mason, Writing Law Dissertations: An Introduction and Guide to the Conduct of Legal Research, Longman 2012

JM Smits, The Mind and Method of the Legal Academic, Edward Elgar 2012

S Tanneunbaum and E Salas, Teams That Work: The Seven Drivers of Team Effectiveness, OUP 2021

M Van Hoeck (ed), Methodologies of Legal Research: Which Kind of Method for What Kind of Discipline?, Hart 2011

BMJ van Klink, Law and Method. Interdisciplinary Research into Law, Mohr Siebeck 2011

M Vols, Legal Research - One Hundred Questions and Answers, Eleven 2021

Teaching method

You are asked to perform preparatory tasks (reading papers, registering in websites, etc) at home. In class, you are guided through the content of the course and the application of the concepts and skills learned in class. Afterwards, you can train on your own and receive feedback.

Evaluation method

Final exam

The final exam consists in the submission of a research plan. The deadline is set 15 calendar days before the deadline for enrolling in the non-taught part of the Master in Law, which was not defined yet. The expected deadline is approximately 15 August 2022. Students enrolled in other masters shall check when they are expected to enroll and ensure that they submit at least 10 days before the said deadline.



Continuous evaluation

A grade will be given to the students on the basis of their participation in the course activities. This grade will count 30 % of the final grade if and only if higher than the grade of the final exam.

The list of activities include:

  • Participate in short surveys
  • Identify and classify the research question in published research
  • Reflect on the use (actual and potential) of extra-legal research
  • Start using recommended software and databases
  • Search for one or more potential supervisors

Subject matter

  1. Overview of the course
  2. Types of trabalho final
  3. Doctrinal legal research (including comparative law)
  4. Legal research and extra-legal research
  5. Sources: A typology
  6. How to search for resources
  7. Literature review and the gap in the literature
  8. From the gap in the literature to a research plan ¿ via a research question
  9. How to criticize primary and secondary sources
  10. The non-taught phase: Tips and a checklist
  11. Research plan workshop