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How to write a legal research paper: All you need to know

This article on “How to write a legal research paper: All you need to know” was written by Vridhi Rai, an intern at Legal Upanishad.


Law is all about analysis, critical thinking, and interpretation. Your capability to put together the analysis of the study of the issues in written form is essential in the practice of law. The research paper is one such way to express your creative and analytic thought process, your vision of the theme, and the originality of your content. The word ‘research’ means a systematic examination of material facts. It can be complex and daunting for law students. But research helps in enhancing your knowledge and cultivating your writing skills. This article will help you understand what is research paper all about and how to write a research paper.

What is a research paper?

A research paper is a piece of academic writing which is based on an author’s original composition in the research and the findings on a given theme or topic. The writing should be owned by the author himself or herself. A good research paper strives to convey the information traced by the author crisply and concisely. The paper is written to examine the theme or the provisions, present your stand on it, and showcase evidence in support in a systematic manner. The true nature of the paper shows you the purpose of the theme or topic. 

What is the aim of the legal research paper?

The aim of the legal research paper can be a subjective question since the writing will indicate what the intended outcome is. There are kinds of writings that would pave a way for courts because it geared toward a certain kind of doctrinal analysis of the court’s interaction with theory and practice. The writings are done for better interpretation of the law. It could also be used to influence policy-making and generate debates. The author has a specific objective and intended audience in mind to serve.

How to write a legal research paper

How to write a legal research paper?

Step-1 choose a theme or topic:.

The foremost step in writing a  legal research paper is to select a theme or topic for the research. Select topics that catch your attention or interest. You can pick topics addressing contemporary issues or topics for the intended audience you wish to cater to. It should be novel, innovative, and interesting. While choosing a topic, read pertinent issues from different sources.  You can follow legal news to search for pertinent topics.

In case, you find difficulty selecting a topic, it will be wonderful for you to approach your professors, colleagues, and friends for consultation. Also, never feel hesitant to change the theme or topic of the research, if you feel it is not the right topic or you will not able to research the topic effectively.

Step-2 Research on your topic:

Now, your next task is to research the topic extensively on your selected topic from credible sources. You can refer to different sources by reading legal research pieces from books to online sites like SCC online, Manupatra, and Kluwer Arbitration. Always remember don’t just goggle. Use conventional sources like books and articles, these will give you a broader perspective. Read as much as you can. Reading helps you understand the nitty-gritty of the law provisions. Please beware of the research as this task can be very monotonous. You might lose motivation to perform this task. But hang in there and stay motivated to find interesting facts.

Step-3 Examine and Make a plan:

After researching, your very next step is to examine and make a plan to execute writing a legal research paper. Your research will be comprehensive with ideas. Please develop a detailed outline. Try adding notes to your research work. It can be possible that you might end up adding too much information to your paper. Highlight the key findings from your study. At this stage you are required to identify the goal of your research work, it can be either argumentative or analytic. You have to determine the masses you are wishing to address. The focus and the tone of the paper should b according to the audience you are intending to reach.

To get your Legal Research Paper written by an expert. Contact us.

Step-4 writing the paper:.

The next step is to draft the research paper. Make a final outline of the research work. The outline must have the points to describe the overview of the paper. The basic mantra of legal research is the structure of the paper. The research paper writing should be creative, clear, concise, and comprehensive. The language of your research paper should be easy to interpret. The legal terminologies and material facts are generally very sophisticated and complex. The facts, you are mentioning must be backed by shreds of evidence.

The format of the legal research paper:

The paper should have a proper format that consists of writing styles, referencing styles, page numbering, spacing, and margins. It should also include the headlines, sub-headlines, citations, or credits to the authors and the scholars.

The content of the legal research paper:

The content consists of the following:

Acknowledgment : the content of the paper should include an acknowledgment section that appreciates all the contributors to the research paper for their efforts and encouragement.

Table of contents: it includes the list of the things that you have written in your research paper.

Scope of the research: the scope or object of the research includes the reason for your study. It shows you the skeleton of your research paper. You have stated the problem or issue of the paper.

A literature survey or the sources used in the study: it includes the sources you have referred to in your study. It can be primary or secondary resources. The primary resources include books, statutes, and case laws. The secondary sources include the material you have collected from law articles, journals, and compendiums online or offline.

The hypothesis of the research: the hypothesis is the idea that is suggested to explain the objective of the research conducted by the researcher. It conveys the expectations of the researcher on what basis he started studying the issues, he raised in his paper.

Abstract : abstract shows the gist of the theme you have mentioned in your study. It is like the summary of the findings in your research regarding the theme. It should be written clearly and concisely.

Introduction: the introduction should be well-written to attract the attention of the audience toward the theme you mentioned in your thesis. A glance over the initial paragraphs gives an insight to the readers of your work. The introduction determines whether the research paper is worth reading or not. It should express the research problem, the purpose of your thesis, and background details about the issue you are referring to. It should be short, crisp, and comprehensive.

The main body of the study: the main focus of the paper is the main body of the thesis. The body should be divided into paragraphs along with sub-headings for a better understanding of the facts. Each paragraph should draw the main points of your study. It should begin with the topic’s sentences and should conclude extensively. In the main body, you can add the case laws and judgments.  

The conclusion of the study: the finale of the study should include a summary of the main pointers discussed in the study, it should express your stand or viewpoint towards the research problem. The concluding para of your research can be affirmative or negative in tone. In the end, you can add some suggestive measures to your study.

References or bibliography: at the end of the paper mention the references or the sources links or sites from which you have researched the material facts.

Step – 5 edit and proofread the final draft of the research paper:

Use proper grammar, punctuation, and spelling. Proofreading will help you to find errors in your content. If you need, to make changes to the paper, check and find the logic and legality of the statement. At this stage, you check the plagiarism of your content.

The things that should be considered carefully before drafting the paper:

you need to check the validity of the judgments before mentioning them in the research paper. The validity of the bills mentioned in your study should be carefully considered. The errors related to applicability or jurisdictions should be carefully verified.


Legal research is not an easy task to perform. It takes a lot of time to conduct it. Constant hard work, attention, motivation, and patience are the factors required to examine and analyze the details. It can be boring. But it will help you in brushing your skills. Your efforts and dedication toward finding more and more material facts will help in shaping you into a good researcher.

It is beneficial for law students for interpreting law provisions, policies, and judgments. It can be used as a medium to influence policy-making procedures and as a tool to aware the masses. Publication of your research papers will act as a stimulating force to your law career. It will help you build your confidence and help them transform into law professionals.


  • How to write a legal research paper: guide: how to write a winning research paper?- Legal Desire. Retrieved:
  • A helpful guide on writing a law research paper- Writing help. Retrieved:
  • How to begin with writing a legal research paper- Manupatra- youtube channel-(video file)
  • How to write a legal research paper law?|research paper- Eminent law classes-(Video file)
  • The aim of writing a legal research paper- the art of writing a legal research paper-Rohini Sen-letter of the law-(video file)

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Directed Research Projects

  • Getting Started
  • Preparing to Research
  • The Research Process

Structuring Your Paper

Writing tips, writing resources.

  • Checking your Sources
  • Getting it Published

There is no strict structure to writing a legal research paper.  Unlike legal memos written for class or documents prepared for court proceedings that require formatted headings such as "Question Presented," "Statement of Facts," etc., legal research papers are not required to contain prescribed content or abide by a particular structure.

That said, below is a typical approach to organizing the content of your research project.

  • Introduction (clear statement of your thesis)
  • Background information (what is the existing law, if any)
  • The problem (explain why the status quo does't work)
  • Recommendation for change (what can be done to improve the field and how)
  • Conclusion (tie back to your thesis)

If you have any questions about formatting your research project, you should seek advice from your faculty advisor.  Below are some basic guidelines, but keep in mind formatting requirements set forth by your faculty advisor will always supersede instructions provided here.

Generally, directed research papers are formatted as follows:

  • 12-point font (Times New Roman or similar)
  • Double-spaced lines
  • One-inch margins on both sides, top, and bottom
  • 10-point font for footnotes (same font as text)
  • Bluebook style and rules for all footnotes citations
  • Roman numerals and/or letter headings and subheadings (same font as text but bolded and/or underlined)
  • Numbered pages in the footer (same font as text)

Table of Contents

Although not required (unless your faculty advisor states otherwise), a table of contents can be helpful to provide your reader with an overview of your research paper and direct them to certain sections.  Your table of contents should mirror your headings and subheadings.  Below is an example of a table of contents.

law research paper format

When to Cite

You must include a citation every time you refer to, paraphrase, or quote a law, case, or another's work.  Most of your sentences will include a citation.  Additionally, when you cite to a law, always cite to the primary source.

How to Cite

The Bluebook, formally titled  The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation , is the style manual for citing to legal documents within the United States.  You should use the Bluebook for all your citations in your legal paper.  The white page section contain the citation rules for legal academic publications.

Cover Art

Writing a Strong Introduction

Your introduction is arguably the most important section of your paper because many people will decide to continue reading based on the introduction.  It must grab the reader's attention and explain why what you are writing about is important.

Essentially, the reader should be able to skim the rest of your paper after reading your introduction and have a good understanding of its layout and arguments.  A good introduction should present the theme of the paper in a succinct manner while providing an overview of your paper.

Generally, a strong introduction will

  • State the legal problem/issue;
  • Describe why it is important and how your paper contributes to the discussion;
  • Provide a road map of your paper; and
  • State your conclusion.

Being Objective & Subjective

After your introduction, you should discuss background information on the issue you chose to write about.  This should be an objective overview of the relevant facts and existing law.  Your objective background information section should not be an all encompassing.  Keep this portion of your paper focused on the essential law and relevant facts that support your recommendation for change. 

The bulk of your paper lays in your discussion of the problem and recommendation for change.  This is the subjective portion of your paper.  In this section you should extract the relevant objective material to support your subjective analysis.

Writing a Strong Conclusion

Your conclusion should restate your thesis, summarize your major points, and remind the reader why the issue you've chosen is important.  The conclusion should essentially reword your introduction in a condensed fashion. 

law research paper format

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Writing a law school research paper or law review note

  • Books and articles

Examples of student papers

The three documents listed below were written by 2Ls for the Indiana International & Comparative Law Review. If you are writing for a seminar or an independent study, your parameters might be a little different, but these serve as good examples of general expectations for what can satisfy the advanced writing requirement.  

  • Ancient Water Law in a Modern Crisis: An Analysis of Australian Water Law Reform in the United States Context
  • Seizing the Initiative on Sexual Assault in the United States Military: The Way Forward
  • Striking a Balance: Extending Minimum Rights to U.S. Gig Economy Workers Based on E.U. Directive 2019/1153 on Transparent and Predictable Working Conditions
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How to Write a Research Paper


This Article is written by Ipshita Goyal. She is 2nd year B.A. L.L.B ( Hons.) Student from Maharshi Dyanand University and Senior executive and Editor-in-chief at Legalthirst.

In the practice of law, nothing is more important than your ability to put together the quality of written work. You can express what you possess in terms of your innovative thinking, critical analysis, originality, and command of language by writing research papers. You have to back your knowledge by writing some solid research papers as only reading will not suffice the purpose of you being in a law school or college.

What does a research paper mean?

A research paper is an essay in which you explain what you have learned after exploring your topic in depth. In a research paper, you include information from sources such as books, articles, interviews, and Internet sites, these are known as secondary research. You also use your ideas, knowledge, and opinions. Most of your paper (as a rule of thumb, at least 80%) must be in your own words, these are known as Primary research.

So, the primary requirement of a research paper is to collect data and information on a topic, take a stand on that topic, and provide the necessary evidence to support your position in that report. The true essence of your report or research paper lies in the objective that it wants to convey.

A good research paper conveys the findings of the research in a concise and crisp form without being muddled by the wordplay of the author. Your research paper selection (if you are sending it to the repudiated journal for publication) is based on peer reviews.

Guideline to writing a Research Paper:

Choose a topic, research on the topic/ library research., analyze and plan by narrowing your topic.

  • Drafting and Editing
  • Preparing the final Text

Choosing a topic is the first and foremost important step in your research paper writing.  Ask yourself a question :  Do you have enough research on this Topic? It should be new, unique, and according to time. Your research paper should be pertinent to the career that you would be choosing.

Pick something in which you are interested: Doing your research on a topic that you enjoy is more likely to give a better result. For example, If you are interested in constitutional law and want to pursue it as a career choice then go ahead with a topic that involves constitutional principle or a thesis or idea. Stick to it and don’t digress.

Always Consult: even if you are a master in a subject or you are interested in it might not come out with a good research paper. Therefore, always consult with your colleagues, teachers, and elders, etc. They can inspire you with new ideas and knowledge.

Last but not the least, never hesitate to change the topic : if you have selected a topic and started your research on it but after you realize that it isn’t the right topic due to any reason, don’t worry, change the topic and restart everything.

Now it’s time, to begin with, your research work for your paper. Remember Research, not just Google : Don’t just google because books should be your primary areas for research, read them as much as you can. It will not only give you a deep knowledge but also help you to connect things better and understand the loopholes in your research.

The college library has the best resources to do your research. Look for a variety of sources, such as books and periodicals. Books provide a broad perspective, while the recent articles provide up-to-date information. You can also search for the articles from many newspapers, magazines, and scholarly journals in the library’s research databases, such as EBSCOhost.

You can also research from various sources like web pages  of Commission Sites, government web portals, or different journal articles  of Hein Online, Manupatra, Economic & Political Weekly, SCC Online, Kluwer Arbitration, or books like an encyclopedia ,  interviews ,

newsletters ,  blog posts, etc.

Give time to your research and sit down with an issue or topic: Your information must vary so try to use five sources for your information.

There are some specific Online Search Engines for specific subjects:

  • SCC Online, VakilSearch : For Caselaw
  • Kluwer Arbitration:  If research is on Arbitration
  • Manupatra: For Judgements of SC, HC or all Indian Courts, Orders of Tribunals, bills of center and state gov., Acts, circulars, ordinances, and reports.
  • Economic & political weekly : Economic & Political Weekly (EPW) publishes analysis of contemporary affairs side by side with academic papers in the social sciences.
  • Jstor : JSTOR is a digital library currently JSTOR provides access to more than 12 million academic journal articles, books, and primary sources in 75 disciplines.

Analyze the plan and always try to narrow your topic. If you are writing an exposition, prepare a flowchart for your convenience so that you do not miss any point.

Annotate your research: After researching o all points and once you have gathered all information about a topic, through primary or secondary sources, print it out (if from a secondary source) or if it is from a book then mark reference note using sticky note paper on that page of the book and highlight the main key points using a highlighter. Use slips of paper tucked into pages to mark book pages.

Identify what is the goal of the paper : There are two types of research papers:

  • Argumentative Research paper
  • Analytic Research paper

  Argumentative research paper  argues on a point of view that is debatable and is logical and takes a position on a contentious issue.

For example : Whether the new Farmer’s Bill is in the interest of farmers.

Analytic research paper  offers a fresh look at an important issue. The subject may not be controversial, but you must attempt to persuade your audience that your ideas have merit.

For example Analytical study on the New Consumer Protection Act, 2019

Determine who is your audience and for whom you are writing? Who would be reading this paper? If you are writing for academic peers then you don’t need to start everything from the basics and your paper must reflect that readers already know the basic ideas and theories. On the other hand, if you are writing for the learners then you need to explain each and everything from the starting stone. Your research paper must include important explanations and examples.

Make notes and write a summary of the main points in your language so that you could remember each point and you don’t miss anything important. If you copied a paragraph then mark it with quotation marks so that you would remember that it is copied.

Finalize your outline : With the tips mentioned above, organize your plan and the entire outline of the research paper. Make an overview of your entire paper in bullet points.

Consider guidelines for formatting: Go through the submission guidelines of the paper. It is important to alter your final research according to the guidelines. It is important to look at the font size, line spacing, and Citation method.

[*Citations are acknowledgments to authors and scholars when you copy a paragraph from another source.  Acknowledging the authors and scholars. It is very important while writing a research paper and there is a keyboard shortcut for that : Alt+Ctrl+F]

For example:    If you have copied a line or a paragraph from M.S. Laxmikant Book then all you need to do is, at the end of the line or paragraph, mark a footnote and enter in its book name with writer and edition. Also, write page no. of the book.

There is a citation method given in the guidelines, For Example, it is given that follow Bluebook Citation 19 then refer to this particular citation format.

this format tells you to cite books, cases, and other authorities. (Refer to the module on Bluebook Citation)

This whole process saves you from the case of copyright infringement and chances of rejection due to plagiarism.

Preparing the Final Draft

The format for the research paper could be like this:

  • Acknowledgment
  • Declaration
  • Table of Contents
  • Index of Authorities  (Would include cases that you have referred to). You may also include a list of Abbreviations if you have used any after this, though it is not mandatory to do so.
  • Limitations
  • Literature Survey/Resources Used
  • Research Questions/Hypothesis
  • Chapterization
  • Introduction
  • Chapters respectively
  • Conclusion:  This Will mainly include what opinion or judgment you, as a researcher, have formed about the topic after the research.
  • Bibliography

Disclaimer:  The opinions and views in the articles and research papers published on this website; are personal and independent opinions of the author. The website is not responsible for them.

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