Handy Tip: Using Google ‘Define’

When studying law, understanding the terms that you use and how to use them is important. This is because a level of precision regarding language is needed within legal studies.

A lecturer once told me, “You can physically take a glass out onto the terrace, but you may not!” In these circumstances, knowing the difference between ‘must’, ‘shall’, ‘may’, ‘can’ or ‘cannot’ may help with your essay writing. It can improve the style of your writing and make the central argument and analysis more convincing.

Other times, you will be expected to use specialist legal terminology. If you are unsure, you  you should look up the terms in a legal dictionary. There are lots of physical copies of legal dictionaries in the UWE library, as well as, electronic copies that you can access online.

Additionally, you may read something in a journal article or book that you may not understand. I often underline this word and use ‘Google define’ to help me understand what it is and write a note in the margin to myself.

Using Google, if you type ‘define’ and then the word that you are looking for, it acts as an online dictionary. For example, if I were looking for the term ‘sanction’, I would type in ‘define sanction’ into Google. A box with definitions will then appear on your browser, like below!


Just be aware that there may be one or more definitions for a given word. A sanction in law means something different from that used in ‘normal English’, so in that case, it would be worthwhile to consult a dictionary specifically for law.


Workshop: Assessment Criteria & Essay Structure

It was lovely seeing you at the workshop on ‘Assessment Criteria & Essay Structure’ yesterday.

Here are the slides that were used: Assessment Criteria Powerpoint Slides

We highlighted that it is important to have a good structure to help develop your arguments and make it easier or the reader/marker to understand the point that you are trying to make. To do so, we revisited the burger analogy from an earlier post.parts-of-a-paragraph

A good essay like a burger, will have an introduction (the bread bun), analysis (the filling – with different/separate components that support each other) and a conclusion (the bread bun base). It should have a logical and coherent structure, where the central argument is evident and the sections complement each other.

  1. Introduction

The introduction should outline the rationale behind your approach/work – that is, why it is relevant. Also, what is relevant i.e. what law you will use; scope and limitations – recognising the parameters of the task, as well as, your central argument. From there, it should also briefly touch upon how you’re going to answer the question, which primarily refers to the structure of your essay e.g. Part 1… Part 2… Part 3…

2. Analysis

In a burger, the ‘filling’ is arguably the best ‘bit’ of the burger, so the analysis should be the main section and ‘best bit’ or bulk of your essay. It will be formed of different components, which should be linked to each other and your central argument.

As per the assessment criteria, you should:

  • Summarise and synthesise issues arising from the law;
  • Be able to use academic arguments to support your work in a concise manner;
  • Be able to engage with these academic arguments;
  • Narrow and focus on relevant issues;
  • Consider areas for reform or recommendations

(For further details, please refer to the LLM Assessment Criteria in the LLM Programme Handbook, which can be found on UWE Blackboard).

To help your analysis, sub-headings can help ‘sign-post’ different aspects of your work and help break it down into specific sections.

3. Conclusion

The conclusion will finish your essay. It should link back to your introduction and the central argument that you introduced and summarise the earlier analysis. Because you’ll have already undertaken the analysis, the conclusion can draw on these earlier arguments. It should be noted that the conclusion is not a place to introduce new arguments or concepts.




Keyboard Shortcuts: A Quick Guide

Function Mac PC
‘Find’ COMMAND Command-F Ctrl-F
‘Copy’ COMMAND Command-C Ctrl-C
‘Paste’ COMMAND Command-V Ctrl-V
‘Undo’ last action COMMAND Command-Z Ctrl-Z
‘Redo’ last action COMMAND Command-Y Ctrl-Y
‘Cut’ COMMAND Command-X Ctrl-X
‘Insert footnote’ COMMAND Command-Option-F Ctrl-Alt-F
‘Save’ COMMAND Command-S Ctrl-S
‘Screenshot’ COMMAND Command-Shift-3 Print screen

The aim of this post is to introduce keyboard shortcuts for both Mac users and PC users. There are lots of different keyboard shortcuts you could use, but these are the most useful for research and studying.


This is a useful shortcut, when you know what you are looking for. It must be stressed that the ‘find’ function does not replace your reading of legislation, a case, book or article. It helps if you have read the source beforehand and merely want to check whether you have the correct citation/reference point.

You’re not expected to memorise every single article of law everywhere! Part of research and academic writing is about knowing where to find relevant parts of the law.

For example, when reading a long treaty and you remember that there is a specific article you need, the ‘find’ shortcut is really useful. When reading the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (1969), and you remember that it has a definition for ‘reservations’ but cannot remember which article.


Then use the ‘find’ function. That means pressing ‘Command’ AND F simultaneously on a Mac, OR ‘Ctrl’ AND ‘F’ on a PC. Type in ‘reservations’ and the computer finds the phrase for you. If the first result is not what you needed, then press ‘Enter’ to find the next result.

It is also a useful way of checking your own work. I have a tendency to overuse the word ‘Therefore’ in my essays, so using the ‘find’ function is useful to check whether I’ve used it too many times in my work or even twice in one sentence!


‘Copy and paste’

I do NOT recommend using the copy and paste when using other people’s work. It is much better to summarise and bring in your own analysis. The ASC Team and staff at Bristol Law School will be running workshops on ‘Good Academic Practice’ and ‘Plagiarism’ but as a general caveat, do NOT copy and paste chunks of text.

The only time I use this is when editing my work. Having written my essay, I often want to check whether my introduction matches my essay structure, as it often needs honing and refining. To do so, I like having an an additional Word document open simultaneously. This document has only my introduction in, which is not only my own work but will be later incorporated into my essay. This is the only time I use ‘copy’ and ‘paste’.


‘Undo’ and ‘redo’

If you’ve made a mistake or accidentally ‘undid’ something you wanted to keep, these functions are quite useful. This is less of a problem with Word documents, but when it comes to designing posters with Powerpoint.  For example, when you’ve moved text or a picture somewhere but can’t remember where you had it last but preferred it that way, then these functions can be really helpful!



Remember our helpful blog post on footnotes and referencing? As a law student, you will need to familiarise yourself with OSCOLA format, which uses footnotes. One way to insert a footnote is with this shortcut.

If you’re still lost, it’s a good time to refresh your memory as it is quite tricky to get used to.

The blog posts can be found here:


and here: https://uweascllmsupport.wordpress.com/2016/10/24/cross-referencing/



Remember to regularly save your work. You’ll be very frustrated if you lose all your hard work!


‘Screen shots’

This is just a useful function to share a picture of your screen with friends or colleagues. If you’re trying to explain something and they don’t quite understand, sometimes a picture can help. This may be something you might want to use if planning group presentations and someone is stuck…


For further information regarding keyboard shortcuts

For PCS, see: https://support.office.com/en-us/article/Keyboard-shortcuts-for-Microsoft-Word-2016-for-Windows-95ef89dd-7142-4b50-afb2-f762f663ceb2?ui=en-US&rs=en-US&ad=US

For Macs, see: https://support.office.com/en-gb/article/Word-keyboard-shortcuts-c0ca851f-3d58-4ce0-9867-799df73666a7



How to locate a journal article using the reference

This post aims to provide you with a helpful guide to finding journal articles using a reference, this will be most useful in locating your recommended reading you are directed to by your lecturers. Before you can find a journal using the reference, first you need to understand the reference:

Understanding the parts of the reference

[Author], ‘[Journal Title]’ ([Year]) [Volume] ([Issue]) [Name of Publication] [Starting Page Number]


R Cotterrell, ‘Subverting Orthodoxy, Making Law Central: A View of Sociolegal Studies’ (2002) 29(4) Journal of Law and Society 632

This journal article is written by R Cotterrell, the title of the article is Subverting Orthodoxy, Making Law Central: A View of Sociolegal Studies, it was published in 2002 in volume 29, issue 4 of the Journal of Law and Society, and the article begins on page 632.

This is a lot of information, delivered in a concise format, and understanding each piece of information helps us to locate the article, think of the reference as being the article’s address. The aim of this post is to demonstrate how each part of the reference may be used, in conjunction with the library resources, to locate the article.

Searching using the title

Many journals are retrievable directly from a search of the library using the title of the journal:


Simply enter the title of the journal in the search box, press search and…


If the article can be found, it will usually be the top result, as can be seen above, we can also see that the library has the full text online, so click on the link and you will be taken to the article.

Sometimes things are not as straightforward as this; searching using the library in this way involves the library searching databases for the title you have asked for, this saves you a lot of time, you then get the relevant result. Unfortunately the library search does not have the ability to search every database in this way, some databases do not allow the library search tool to search for titles within their database. If your title search fails, then you need to use the publication name in order to locate the correct database yourself.

Searching using the Publication Name

As you can see from the breakdown of the reference, we can use the reference to identify the name of the publication the journal is published in.

Sometimes the full name will be given, for example here highlighted in red is the publication name within a reference:

R Cotterrell, ‘Subverting Orthodoxy, Making Law Central: A View of Sociolegal Studies’ (2002) 29(4) Journal of Law and Society 632

Other times an abbreviation of the publication name will be given, for example here highlighted in red is the abbreviated publication name within a reference:

  1. Gomulka, ‘Will UBS mark the end of rogue trading or the beginning of regulatory collapse?’(2012) 12 (2) JIBFL 120

As you become more experienced, you will begin to recognise publications from their abbreviations, but when you are unfamiliar with the abbreviation can find the title using Cardiff Index to Legal Abbreviations; this useful resource allows you to search for titles using abbreviations, and vice versa. Taking the JIBFL as an example we can search the index like so:


The search will then return matching results, in some cases there may be more than one result, but in the example search, we get one result:


We now have the title of the journal, Journal of International Banking and Financial Law, and we can search for this title using the library search:


By entering this search term the library will provide result which will include databases where we can access this publication, if the library has access to the publication.


We can see from the results that the top two entries hold full text of the publication we are looking for, and the second result shows us that the publication is available from Lexis Library. The links provided by the library search results will take us directly to the publication, within the database:


From this page we can use the various sections of the reference to search for the article, we can enter the author and the title, which in this case takes us directly to the article:


Or we can use the reference to browse for the article, this will make use of the year or volume, the issue and the page number of the article to locate it. So in our example we can take the year and volume, then the issue and finally the page number

  1. Gomulka, ‘Will UBS mark the end of rogue trading or the beginning of regulatory collapse?’(2012) 12 (2) JIBFL 120


When using Lexis Library, browsing involves expanding the relevant section by clicking on the plus (+) sign. Once you have found the issue you are looking for, expand it and then you can view the articles by title, in page number order:


The interface you will meet at each database you use will be different, some are much easier to use than others, but the aim of this guide is to allow you to understand the reference you have been given, and be able to locate the journal using that information. My best advice is to keep practicing, you will learn to recognise abbreviations, so you will not need to use the abbreviations index as often. You will also learn which databases hold which publications. This guide will be most useful when do not have that experience, and you can fall back on this process. If you are still having trouble locating journals then come see us in the ASC. If you have followed this guide, and you are still unable to locate the article then contact the lecturer who set the reading.