Normative Methods, Legal Analysis and Research Skills
Course Code: PUBLG104
Course Tutor: Dr Saladin Meckled-Garcia (Department of Political Science)
Assessment: One 3,000 word paper
Credit Value: 15
About this course
The aim of this course is to introduce students to the key methods and techniques in normative theory, with special reference to human rights theory, and in legal analysis, with special reference to human rights law. The first part of the course covers how normative arguments/critiques/positions can be analysed by using key methodological concepts. The main approaches to moral argument are worked through using examples from human rights cases. These include: ordinary language analysis, intuitionism, reflective equilibrium, coherentism, and value-led interpretivism.
The second part of the course covers legal arguments and interpretation with special reference to human rights law. Students are shown how to approach human rights legal materials, texts and sources, as evidence of law. The course addresses how these sources are/can be used in interpretation to arrive at legal conclusions. The main methodological approaches in legal analysis are covered, including: plain text meaning, author intention, historical authority, judicial authority, value and purpose. These two substantive parts use real human rights cases that students are invited to analyse from both a moral and then the legal perspective.
In addition to this, students are introduced to Masters' level essay writing (argument construction) skills, and these are connected with the appropriate methods for different types of essay (normative; legal). Students will also develop key research skills and scholarly skills for Masters level work: essay writing format, structure and style; research sources for law; literature review writing; research proposal writing. The course also aims to highlight key concepts students should use in developing a methodology for their dissertation work, and in carrying out original research and dissertation preparation.
By the end of this course students will:
- Understand the difference between normative methods and non-normative methods.
- Be aware of the main approaches to moral analysis and legal analysis.
- Analyse normative arguments in terms of their key methodological commitments.
- Develop and test arguments using clear normative methodologies and techniques.
- Engage and interpret legal sources.
- Analyse and evaluate legal arguments and their relationship to sources.
- Evaluate legal arguments in terms of interpretative commitments/theories of interpretation.
- Write clear essays making conscious essay structure choices.
- Write a clear dissertation proposal using clear elements and components, including a methodological statement.
- Write a clear literature review, thematically and conceptually structured.
* Please note that this course is currently only available to MA HR students.