Choosing a Subject Area

Your research proposal must explain how your research is likely to be original and how it will contribute to your field of study. It is not enough simply to reproduce existing knowledge. There are many ways in which you can demonstrate originality – it does not necessarily require you to study something that has never been studied before. For example, you could:

  • Study a topic that has genuinely never been studied before.
  • Bring together areas of work that have not before been brought together.
  • Compare the topic in the Scottish legal system with the same topic in another legal system.
  • Analyse legal issues from a new perspective.
  • Work between disciplines e.g. by bringing philosophical ideas to legal issues.
  • Attempt a historical review of your topic.
  • Analyse new case law/new legislation on a topic.
  • Identify problems with existing case law/legislation.
  • Undertake an empirical case study to see if the law is achieving its objectives.

It is inappropriate to write a thesis that reads like a textbook. This is not sufficiently advanced work and your treatment will be too superficial. You need to choose something that will give you the scope both to describe and critically analyse the law. For example, a thesis on “the law relating to criminal defences in Scotland” or “a review of EC law governing the enforcement of European law in national courts of member states” would be too broad. You would have to narrow down your topic to consideration of one particular aspect of the topic (e.g. one specific defence or one specific aspect of European law).

Examples of Successful PhD Theses

  • An Analysis of General Principles of Insurance and Contract Law
  • The Hague Maintenance Convention
  • Reforming Entity Law: A Legal-Economic Analysis of the Use of Limited Liability by Corporate Groups
  • Paradox of Modern International Law in China
  • Achieving Sustainable Environmental Development