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How Do I Write a Legal Research Paper?

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  • Written By: Christopher John
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 28 September 2014
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The key elements of writing a legal research paper are: knowing the reader, providing a statement of the facts, defining the question, providing a brief answer, analyzing the law, ensuring proper citations and formulating conclusions. The paper should be objective and concise. It should help its reader understand how the law relates to a particular situation. This will help the reader decide on a course of action.

Be aware of who will be relying on your research paper. The reader might be a lawyer, a judge or a layperson. A lawyer or judge likely will understand certain legal terminology. This might allow you to avoid having to explain certain legal terms that legal professionals are likely to know.

If the research is for a layperson, he or she might not comprehend certain legal terms. As a result, you should eliminate legalese and use plain language. Explain any legal terms that cannot be eliminated.

Organize each section of your legal research paper with sub-headings. For example, “Statement of the Facts,” “Questions Presented” and so on. Sub-headings will make your research paper easier to read. It also will allow the reader to find certain sections quickly.

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Begin the legal research paper by writing down a clear statement of the facts. The facts do not contain opinions or conclusions, they describe the events that give rise to a legal question. These facts will tell the reader the who, what, where and how of a particular situation. The facts, if not yet proven, are allegations. Ensure that the reader is aware of whether the facts are allegations.

Next, write down each question that your research paper will address. This section can be called “Questions Presented” or the “Issues Presented.” The questions arise from the statement of the facts. The questions should include key facts. Be sure t frame each question concisely.

After each legal question, write a short answer. The short answer does not include detailed legal analyses of the legal issue. Instead, it is a brief response to the question presented. The short answer should be one or two sentences.

Your paper should then provide the analysis of the law. This section should discuss how the law relates to the facts of the problem you are researching. The analysis should not contain your personal opinions. Instead, it should discuss how courts have applied the law to the facts in cases that are similar to your fact situation.

The analysis should include cases that are both favorable and unfavorable. This will help ensure objectivity. Writing a paper with a biased tone will not help a reader make decisions objectively. Persuasive legal writing is not the point of a legal research paper.

Provide appropriate citations to the laws and other legal materials that you reference in the legal research paper. In the United States, the Harvard Law Review Association publishes the Uniform System of Citations, known as "the blue book,” which legal professionals use as a guide. The blue book provides the rules on how to abbreviate, italicize and structure citations.

The final section of a legal research paper is the conclusion. The conclusion should summarize the paper. It should also contain options for handling the problems associated with each question presented. This section also might provide recommendations to the reader.

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