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Guide To LLM Dissertation Writing

LLM Dissertation WritingOnce you realise that you are already nearing the halfway point of your hectic LLM year you will be focusing on starting that dissertation. It's an important part of your LLM program and will contribute massively to your overall success. Here we talk you through the important stages of writing your LLM dissertation.

Choosing the topic

Five key considerations when choosing your dissertation topic are:

  • Why are you studying an LLM in thr first place?
  • Which modules have you enjoyed the most?
  • Which areas of the law have a good support base at your institution?
  • What are the strengths of your law library?
  • Is your potential topic a wide enough question?

Obviously, choosing a topic is a necessary stage to get underway before you can start researching and writing your dissertation. You should spend time carefully considering the subject of your dissertation as it might end up being the clincher for that first job after you finish your studies. Make sure you pick a topic that you find interesting, but that also has the balance of support from your lecturers and professors.

You'll need to be uniquely motivated to produce a dissertation about a subject that none of your lectures or professors knows much about. Understanding why you have picked the particular subject will ensure you're choosing the right topic, but don't spend too much time considering what to do as you'll need to get on with it. 


Dissertation support

You will have plenty of dissertation support organised through your law school. Some of it might be compulsory sessions that you must undertake as part of your LLM program, while others may be support sessions that can help you stay focused throughout your dissertation work.

Make sure you attend these sessions and don’t hesitate to ask questions if in doubt. It might be a good idea to share your dissertation structure with tutors or designated academic contacts that can give you feedback on your progress. Law school libraries usually have books that tell you how best to prepare for your dissertation. Keep an eye out for skills sessions on writing or research methods. These will prove useful when you get down to drafting content for your dissertation and will enable you to put to practice acquired skills that you picked up during these sessions.

Planning and organisation

Some people love creating a filing system and hopefully, you're one of them as this is a great way to organise your LLM dissertation. You'll need to keep your research well organised to enable you to quickly access it when you are writing your dissertation. It's a good idea to have research divided into chapters early on.

It's a good idea to follow a file management procedure to save your dissertation material. This material could consist of both printed (photocopies from the library or print-outs of research articles) and online documents. Try to follow a consistent labelling/naming convention so that you can locate documents quickly. For instance, if you have a vast number of online articles and research papers to go through, then categorise them in such a way that they fall under relevant chapters of your dissertation.

Any research you do online will need to be backed up, and of course, you will have the dissertation itself backed up too. Do not have everything saved on one ancient laptop, instead build in a routine for how you save and backup your data daily so it just becomes part of how you work. If you start as early as you can on your dissertation, then you'll be able to build in planning time and create a realistic timetable for your work, with escapes from your dissertation to let you reflect on what you have done so far. 

LLM dissertation


There is no easy or quick way around this, you are just going to have to get going with the research as soon as possible. Remember that law libraries get busy during the second semester so you'll need to get there early in the mornings or stay late sometimes.

You also don't want to wait around for particular texts that have a limited availability. If you realise you need a book that someone else has checked-out of the library, then let the staff know as soon as you know so you have a chance of getting it. Don't forget about online law libraries and resources too, and speak with your academic staff if you are really struggling to access what you need. 


Don't wait until you think you've done all the researching before you start writing up your findings. Writing up an LLM dissertation takes time and thought. Start writing as soon as you start researching and keep planning the chapters of your dissertation as you delve deeper into the research. With a bit of luck and good planning, you will find that the chapters are easy to write. 

Editing and formatting

Find out before you write a single word what format your dissertation needs to be in for printing and submission. Your law school will likely have their own standards, so you should familiarise yourself with this document before you get started. Establish the right format straight away so you are not spending time at the last minute changing formats or the way you have referenced the whole document.

Don't underestimate how long it will take to edit your dissertation – expect to read through each chapter many times as each read through will show you new and interesting mistakes. And if possible, find a willing friend or family member to give it a final read – fresh eyes are likely to pick up small typos or mistakes.  

Printing and submitting

Aim to finish your LLM dissertation with a little time to spare. Towards submission deadlines, university printers are busy places and if you need to print your dissertation at a particular printer then check with them early on to understand how much time they need to get your document ready. You need time for them to print it and time for you to check the printed material as you need to check for formatting errors or any printing mistakes like double pages. 

Once you've written your dissertation you can take a calm walk into your submissions office and hand over your dissertation. Obviously, everything went to plan and you've finished your dissertation with time to spare and now it's time to relax a little.


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