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Selecting and Developing a Legal Research Topic

The purpose of this guide is to assist students who are writing a legal research paper and need help selecting a topic and developing a thesis.

Developing Your Thesis

After you have selected your topic, you are ready to develop your thesis.  A thesis is what you want to say about your topic.  It is the proposition, claim, or main argument that you will be making in your paper.  Any one topic may lend itself to many possible theses.  Please keep in mind that your thesis is a work in progress.  You may not have a well-formulated thesis before you start the initial research on your topic.  As you research and learn more about the topic, your initial thesis may change.  This is perfectly normal.  Developing your thesis may involve broadening or narrowing the scope of your topic, performing background and primary research on the topic, developing a research plan, keeping track of your research, and making use of all your resources. 

Once you have committed to a final thesis, make sure it has the following characteristics:

  1. Your thesis must say something.
  2. Your thesis must be easily identifiable.
  3. Your thesis must be manageable.   

Source: Jessica L. Clark and Kristen E. Murray, Scholarly Writing: Ideas, Examples, and Execution (Carolina Academic Press, 2010)

Online Resources

Melbourne Law School's Legal Academic Writing Resources (LAWresources) - Created for Melbourne Law Students, this site contains useful information for developing your thesis and argument.  Click on the links below for further information on a particular subject.

University of Melbourne Courseworks - Designed for University of Melbourne graduate students, this site provides helpful advice and quizzes to test your knowledge on various aspects of research and writing, including developing your thesis and argument.

University of Melbourne's Academic Interactive Resources Portal (AIRport) - This University of Melbourne site provides interactive activities for developing academic writing skills, including stating and developing your argument.