How to write a law research proposal


Law research proposal is very important prior to completing your research thesis or dissertation. In conducting a research in law generally known and referred to as legal research, credible and specific attention is given to the preparation of a research proposal.

Conducting legal research without first preparing a research proposal may handicap the researcher and make the entire research processes and practices more complex than it would have been in the research proposal was done. By preparing a research proposal, it will be possible for the legal researcher to conduct preliminary literature reviews of key secondary sources of data or preliminary secondary research on the subject matter of the discourse.

Aim of a Law Research Proposal 

One may ask, what is the aim of conducting the preliminary literature reviews of key secondary sources of data or preliminary secondary research? Such activity usually done in the research proposal helps the researcher to formally design and set out the objectives of the research and the research questions. Also, the preliminary secondary research helps in the creation of an impression which will lead to a final decision making on whether or not the research study on which the proposal is made should be continued, modified, suspended or defied.

Research proposals have been termed by some studies as one that summarily covers almost every part of a research study save for the key findings and discussion of the findings which are meant to be contained in the main contents of the research study.

Specific Sections and Guidelines in Making a Research Proposal in Law

Proceeding to the issue at hand – how to write a research proposal in law; it is imperative to have an idea of the key sections or parts of a research study that are meant to be covered in the research proposal. Before proceeding, a legal researcher should know that every single institution or faculty of law has its own distinguished guidelines, structure and format which a student or researcher is meant to follow in not only conducting the research study but also for the purpose of preparing the research proposals.

Therefore, while the contents of this article are relevant as to how to write a research proposal in law, a researcher must take cognizance of the guidelines applicable in his or her institution and specifically law faculty and apply such accordingly as doing otherwise may be detrimental to the researcher and the successful completion of the research study.

However, this article has compared and contrasted distinct guidelines, structures and formats from handfuls of institutions and faculties and thus has ascertained the commonest and most persistent guidelines, structures and formats which may be followed in preparing a research proposal in law.

Overview of a Law Research Proposal

The required number of pages is usually between 5 to 10 pages covering a brief introduction, background, specific research questions and research objectives as well as the preferred research methodology to be adopted by the proposed legal research study. In addition, the proposal covers a brief summary of the literature reviews of the relevant literature related to the subject matter and concepts to be discussed in the proposed legal research study.

Also, a research proposal will include the succinct and comprehensive justification to warrant the conduct of the proposed legal research study as well as specifying the schedules as to the timings for completion of the each stage of the research and the entire research itself. A proposal is meant to be completed with a summary of the contents in form of a project overview and then a conclusion.

Step by Step Explanation of the Sections in Law Research Proposals

In the introduction, a researcher is meant to proffer a brief highlight of the purpose or objectives of the research proposal. The introduction shows what a researcher wishes to do in the proposal, highlighting summarily each section of the proposal and the relevance of the proposal itself – note, not the relevance of the main research study. Following the introduction is the background.

In the background section, the researcher is expected to look inward and specify the root problem that the research study is meant to solve. The background should also contain the historical outlay or history of the issues being covered in the research as it relates to the subject matter of the proposed legal research study.

A good background should show in volume what has been done in previous studies and research in respect of the issues or subject matter of the research and show how the proposed research is able to make contribution to existing knowledge to solve the problems highlighted in the body of the background.

The scope or delimitation of the research should already be known at the conclusion of the section on background. From the background already done and knowledge of the scope or delimitation of the proposed research study, a researcher is to specifically outline at least one research question which the proposed research study is expected to answer. Usually, the research objective is merely a reflection of the research question in a statement format and for that reason, the number of research questions is usually the same as the number of research objectives at any given time. For instance:

Research Question:

  1. What are the incidents of incorporations for a company under corporate law and governance?
  2. What are the circumstances that will warrant the court to lift the veil of incorporation?

Research Objectives:

  1. To identify the incidents of incorporations for a company under corporate law and governance.
  2. To ascertain the circumstances that will warrant the court to lift the veil of incorporation.

From the above, it is obvious that two issues are not compounded in a single question or objective as every single question or objective is meant to embody a particular issue or problem the proposed research intends to answer or attain as the case may be.

In the next section, a legal researcher is expected to specify the methodology of research which will be applied in answering the research question or attaining the objectives of the research. While empirical research may be applicable, the doctrinal research method which is non-empirical in nature is the most common form of research methodology in law as it involves the review of statutes, regulations and other literature.

However, the research objectives to be attained determine the research methodology to be adopted. Importantly, research must justify the proposed research by showing the needs and significance of the research study which may be in form of usages which the research may be put to or the roles the research will play upon completion. Where the above information are followed creatively, one would be able to write a research proposal in law.

We hope you enjoyed the write-up on How to write a law research proposal. Kindly use the comment section to reach us with your question, feedback or suggestion.


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