This exercise follows from the exercise ‘Using Sources in Legal Essays’. Its purpose is to introduce you to an excellent and a satisfactory essay, and to analyse their use of sources and the structure of their arguments. The original essays are available through the Legal Academic Skills Centre website, here.

Reading the Essays

Download the extracts here. Read them both, and consider:

  • How they use sources? What quality sources are they using?
  • Where are they using quotes? Why do you think they used quotes in this way?
  • How are the authors critically engaging with the sources that they use?
  • How strong are the arguments advanced by the respective authors?
  • Do the essays answer the question?
  • How well do the essays comply with AGLC requirements, such as formatting and referencing rules?

After reading the essays, compare your thoughts to the annotated versions of each essay, available here.

The following points are worth noting:

  • The referencing in the satisfactory paper is inconsistent, and the formatting is not AGLC compliant. Small mistakes like this are an easy way to lose marks.
  • The satisfactory paper uses the Barnett article, which does not appear to be a highly authoritative source, to make some pretty controversial points. By comparison, the excellent paper only uses it to back up arguments which are supported by more authoritative sources.
  • The sources used by the satisfactory essay are generally quite poor. Often the essay uses these sources to support commonly known facts, rather than arguments. One gets the feeling that the author has not done a lot of reading on the set topic.
  • The satisfactory essay also uses a lot of quotations, which suggests that the author has not understood the source material. As a general rule, it is best to paraphrase sources wherever possible.
  • It won’t be apparent without reading the entire essays, but the satisfactory paper does not fully answer the question that was asked. It fails to discuss one of the key limbs of the question – the High Court’s responsibility for the interpretation of the Constitution. This is why students should keep a copy of the essay question nearby as a reference.

Further Reading