Quick Tip #1 – Westlaw searches

Quick Tip: –

If you are struggling to find information on Westlaw because your search is turning up too many results, try using the Westlaw subject hierarchy. This allows you to search journal articles, cases, legislation etc using the subjects which the document has been tagged with. It’s a considerably more exact way of searching than, for example, a keyword search.

It’s also very simple to use:








Essay Structure

In this post, you can access an example of an LLM essay:  Example essay

This essay has been annotated to give an explanation of how essay structure has been used to answer the question. It must be stressed that there are many ways to structure an essay, and that a lot will depend on your personal writing style, the topic and the argument/s you wish to build. This example is intended only to show how structure may be used to form an answer, and illustrate the importance of structure within essays.

Please note: If you have problems downloading the essay, open the folder containing the download, right click on the file, and open with Microsoft Word.

If comments aren’t appearing on the right, you can click on the comment icon and this will open the comment bar.

Glossary: Public International Law


Learning public intewordclousrnational law can be a daunting task, particularly as it has lots of Latin maxims, acronyms and foreign words. It is for that reason that this post has been written; it serves as a glossary of terms that you may come across.

The glossary serves as a basic guide; it does not mean the definitions demonstrate the relevant source of law or how it is applied. In that regard, you should refer to the relevant source, for example, treaties or case law.

If using these terms in your assignments, remember that OSCOLA format requires that they are italicised. See: OSCOLA (p.8).

Term Definition
Amicus curiae Person or group with strong interest or perspective on the issue within a legal action. He/she/they may petition the court to file a brief to give further information or opinion on the matter. Amicus curiae are often filed in cases concerning public interest issues.

For example: Biwater Gauff (Tanzania) Ltd. v. United Republic of Tanzania ICSID Case No. ARB/05/22, 26 March 2007.

Amicus Curiae were submitted by:  The Lawyers’ Environmental Action Team, The Legal and Human Rights Centre, The Tanzania Gender Networking Programme, The Center for International Environmental Law, The International Institute for Sustainable Development.

CEDAW Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women.

See: CEDAW (adopted 18 December 1979, entered into force 3 September 1981) 1249 UNTS 13.

Compromis An agreement between States where they jointly submit materials on a particular dispute to the ICJ.

For further details, see: Statute of the International Court of Justice (adopted 26 June 1945, entered into force 24 October 1945) 33 UNTS 993, Article 36(1).

Convention See: Treaty.
Corpus jure Rules that form a self-contained specialised regime (e.g. international trade law, international human rights law, international humanitarian law etc).
Covenant See: Treaty.
Customary international law This is one of the main sources of public international law. It consists of two elements: opinio juris and state practice.

For further details, you should read: Hugh Thirlway, ‘The Sources of International Law’ in Malcolm Evans (ed), International Law (4th edn, OUP 2014) 91-117; Malcolm Shaw, International Law (7th edn, CUP 2014) 49-91.

De facto According to fact or the deed/in practice.

Note: Disctinction from de jure.

De jure In law or according to the law.

Note: Distinction from de facto.

Erga omnes Obligations of the State that are important enough to be deemed that they are owed to the international community as a whole. This includes matters, such as prohibition of genocide, slavery and racial discrimination.

For further details, see: Barcelona Traction, Light and Power Company Ltd (Belgium v. Spain) case, [1970] ICJ Rep 44.

Estoppel Requirement of consistency within legal arguments – ‘You cannot have it both ways’.

For further reading, see: Status of Eastern Greenland PCIJ Rep Series A/B No. 53, 70-71.

FAO Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

Website: http://www.fao.org/home/en/

ICC International Criminal Court.

Website: https://www.icc-cpi.int

ICCPR International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

See: International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (adopted 16 December 1966, entered into force 23 March 1976) 999 UNTS 171 (ICCPR).

ICESCR International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

See: International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (adopted 16 December 1966, entered into force 3 January 1976) 993 UNTS 3.

ICJ International Court of Justice.

Website: http://www.icj-cij.org

ICRC International Committee of the Red Cross.

Website: https://www.icrc.org/en

ICSID International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes.

Website: https://icsid.worldbank.org/apps/ICSIDWEB/Pages/default.aspx

Ipso facto By the fact itself.
ITLOS International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea. Website: https://www.itlos.org
ICC International Criminal Court

Website: https://www.icc-cpi.int

ICCPR International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

See: International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (adopted 16 December 1966, entered into force 23 March 1976) 999 UNTS 171 (ICCPR).

ITLOS International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea

Website: https://www.itlos.org

Jus cogens (or ius cogens) Peremptory norms of international law. There is no derogation from these norms permitted.

You may want to read, Dinah Shelton, ‘International Law and ‘Relative Normativity’ in Malcolm Evans, International Law (4th edn, OUP 2014) 137-152.

Jus gentium (or ius gentium) Now often refers to the law of nations, but originally derives from Roman law.

It is a concept that is understood to mean that it is the law established among all people via natural reasoning.

Jus in bello (or ius in bello)


Law that governs the conduct of warfare. Sometimes it is referred to has international humanitarian law or the law of war.

Note: Distinct from jus ad bellum.

Jus naturale (or ius natural) Natural law.
Jus sanguinis The ‘right of blood’ or law relating to place of descent. A legal principle that an individual’s citizenship is determined by citizenship of his/her parent.

Note: Distinct from jus soli.

Jus soli The ‘law of the soil’. A legal principle that an individual determined by place of birth.

Note: Distinct from jus sanguines.

Lacunae Gaps in the law.
Law of Treaties Note: This is different from treaty law. The law of treaties concerns the procedure for the creation, negotiation and enactment of treaties and not the actual substance of a given treaty.

See: Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, 23 May 1969, 1155 UNTS 331.

Lex feranda (or de lege feranda) Norms still evolving/developing into law e.g. the right to development is not yet a binding norm.

Sometimes refers to what the law ought to be.

Note: Contrast to lex lata.

Lex lata (or de lege lata) Well established law that is binding.

Often refers to what the law currently is. This is a contrast to lex feranda.

Lex mercatoria


Trade law. Often refers to international commercial law i.e. the market customs that are now part of binding (market) law on States.
Lex posterior (or lex posterior derogat priori) More recent law prevails over earlier inconsistent law.
Lex specialis (or lex specialis derogat generali) Specific or more specialised law prevails over general law.
Mare clausum Closed seas.
Mare liberum Freedom of the seas.
Mutatis Mutandis When what must be changed has been changed.
Non liquet The law is insufficient to provide a decision.
Opinio juris (pinion juris sive necessitates) Firmly held position/conviction/perception that a given behaviour is required by law. This often refers to a legal duty or obligation. It is a requirement before any norm can be considered as custom within international law.

It should be noted that this is distinct from behaviours that are habit or random behaviour.

See: Hugh Thirlway, ‘The Sources of International Law’ in Malcolm Evans (ed), International Law (4th edn, OUP 2014) 91-117; Malcolm Shaw, International Law (7th edn, CUP 2014) 49-91.

Pacta sunt servanda Doctrine that all agreements must be kept in ‘good faith’.

For further details, see: Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, 23 May 1969, 1155 UNTS 331, Article 26.

PCIJ Permanent Court of International Justice was the predecessor of the ICJ. Some of the decisions made by the PCIJ are still relevant in international law and can be found on the ICJ website.

Website: http://www.icj-cij.org/pcij/index.php?p1=9

Peremptory norm A norm so important that derogation is not permitted. See: jus cogens.
Persona non grata An unwelcome/undesirable person. Generally refers to grounds for expelling or rejecting a diplomat.
Prima facie At first sight; based on first impressions.
Ratione materiae The material field of application of the law.
Ratione personae The personal field of application of a law.
Ratione temporae The temporal field of application of a law.
Rebus sic stantibus


‘Things staying as they are’.

The doctrine means that treaty obligations stay the same, as long as the conditions and expectations that existed remain the same. Otherwise, when a fundamental change in the underlying ethos or conditions of a treaty, it may be terminated or suspended.



A formal statement made by a given State when it signs, ratifies, adopts, accedes to a treaty that modifies or excludes certain sections of the agreement.

For example: ‘The Government of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas does not consider itself bound by the provisions of article 2(a), … article 9, paragraph 2, … article 16(h), … [and] article 29, paragraph 1, of the Convention [in relation to CEDAW]’

See: Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, 23 May 1969, 1155 UNTS 331, Article 2(1)(d).

Sine qua non Indispensable condition/pre-requisite.

Sources of Law

As there is no central legislature within public international law, so the sources of law (although are not exclusive to) come from three main places:

1)    Treaties;

2) Customary international law;

3) General principles.

Understanding the sources is important to understanding more complex topics within international law.

As a starting point, you should read: Hugh Thirlway, ‘The Sources of International Law’ in Malcolm Evans (ed), International Law (4th edn, OUP 2014) 91-117; Malcolm Shaw, International Law (7th edn, CUP 2014) 49-91.

See also: Statute of the International Court of Justice (adopted 26 June 1945, entered into force 24 October 1945) 33 UNTS 993, Article 38.

Terra (or res) nullius Land (or thing) belonging to no one.


United Nations Commission on International Trade Law

Website: http://www.uncitral.org/uncitral/en/about_us.html



United Nations Commission on Trade and Development

Website: http://unctad.org/en/Pages/Home.aspx



United Nations Human Rights Council

Website: http://www.ohchr.org/en/hrbodies/hrc/pages/hrcindex.aspx


Uti possidetis

‘That which you possess, you may continue to possess’

In a post-colonial context, see: Case concerning the Frontier Dispute (Burkina Faso v. Mali) ICJ Rep 1986, 554.

WTO World Trade Organization

Website: https://www.wto.org

ICESCR International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

See: International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (adopted 16 December 1966, entered into force 3 January 1976) 993 UNTS 3.

ICJ International Court of Justice

Website: http://www.icj-cij.org

ICSID International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes

Website: https://icsid.worldbank.org/apps/ICSIDWEB/Pages/default.aspx



Using Parliament.uk

As promised, another post on Parliamentary sources – this time, a quick guide to using the official website of Parliament.

You will find most of the Parliamentary material you need hosted on the Parliament website. This post will focus on how to use the website, and therefore assumes a basic knowledge of different Parliamentary bodies and procedures. (You can see the Parliamentary dictionary if some terms are unfamiliar.)

Parliamentary business is most often found in Hansard, the official record of Parliament. This can be accessed through the homepage, or by using this link. From here there are a number of options. Some of those most likely to be useful are explored below:

  1. Commons and Lords Hansard

This can be accessed by clicking the link on the main page:


There are then a number of searches which can be performed. It is possible to do a general search within Hansard for a specific term – for example “benefit sanctions” – which will bring up a list of all items where this term is found:


The drop-down menus on the main page also bring up a number of ways to search which may or may not be useful to your research. For example, “Browse MPs/Peers” allows you to search for contributions from specific people:


  1. Written Questions and Answers and Written Statements

Again, this can be accessed by clicking the link on the main page:


This will then bring up a search box which offers various options for searching. Most of these are self explanatory:


It is also possible to search written statements, and the daily reports by date:



  1. Hansard archive

The Hansard pages discussed above only contain content for 2010 onwards. For pre-2010 content you will need to use the archives for the Lords and Commons.

  1. Other useful links

From the Parliament homepage, it is also possible to access a wide range of further documents and information. The easiest way to find these is simply to explore the website. If you are unfamiliar with Parliament, the ‘About Parliament’ section of the website may be a useful place to start:


You will also need to be familiar with the ‘Parliamentary business’ section:


Parliament is not always the most obvious resource to use in legal research, but it can often be a rich source of information for a number of different resources. For example, debates and Committee scrutiny of Bills may provide useful information on Legislation you are discussing in your research; Committee inquiries, debates and Early Day Motions can often provide analysis and examples of a law in operation; written answers are a good source for statistical data on specific subjects. It may be worth searching the Parliamentary website during your research to help provide secondary material and analysis.

Using Microsoft Word – Referencing

This is a basic guide to useful Microsoft Word features when using OSCOLA referencing, the referencing system used for the UWE LLM course. It is intended to be a basic introduction, with helpful tips and links. It is strongly recommended that you become familiar with OSCOLA as early in the course as possible, as this will save you many hours of frustration when trying to reference.

  • OSCOLA Referencing

The first thing to know is that there is no automatic way of inserting OSCOLA referencing. Instead, each time you wish to cite a source, you must put a footnote after the point you wish to make.[1] To do this, simply click on the ‘References’ tab on the top bar, then click ‘Insert Footnote’:


You can then type in any information which you wish to include. In terms of OSCOLA referencing, the best way of finding out how to reference particular sources is to refer directly to the OSCOLA guides. The full guide can be found here.

If you haven’t used OSCOLA before, it is best to familiarise yourself with it by using the full guide to begin with. There are a number of nuances, such as where commas go or if a comma is used, that you will need to be familiar with. If you know OSCOLA fairly well and simply need to refresh your memory for a particular source, there is a quick guide here.

Under the OSCOLA referencing system, the format of a reference is different in the Bibliography from footnotes, therefore make sure you have double-checked your references are correct for both styles. For example, a source in the Bibliography begins [Surname] [Initial] for the author, whereas in a footnote the author is listed as [Full first name] [Surname]:

Elizabeth Fisher, Risk Regulation and Administrative Constitutionalism (Hart Publishing 2007) – footnote                                                                

Fisher E, Risk Regulation and Administrative Constitutionalism (Hart Publishing 2007) – Bibliography [2]

Bibliographies take a specific format, that is a table of cases, a table of legislation, then the bibliography. UWE’s example OSCOLA bibliography can be found here. (This is a PDF download, you will find it in your downloads folder after clicking the link)

As with footnotes, there is no automatic way to build a Bibliography in Word. Instead, best practice is to keep a full list of all sources you have used during your research, either in a separate document or at the end of your work, to include as a Bibliography after the main text of your assignment.

  • Formatting

Under the OSCOLA referencing system, quotes have to be formatted in a particular manner. If the quote is less than three lines long, ‘[i]ncorporate quotations of up to three lines into the text, within single quotation marks’.[3] Where a quotation is longer than three lines, it must be presented as fully indented:

Present quotations longer than three lines in an indented paragraph, with no further indentation of the first line (examples 3 and 4). Do not use quotation marks, except for single quotation marks around quotations within quotations (example 3). Leave a line space either side of the indented quotation.[4]

The easiest way of ensuring consistency of formatting throughout a document is to create a new “style”. To do this, go to the ‘Home’ tab and under ‘Styles’ sub-tab select the drop down arrow and ‘Create a style’:


This will bring up a text box. Select ‘Modify’:


This will then bring up a number of options for creating your own style of text formats. Firstly, choose a name you will remember, eg ‘OSCOLA quotes’. Under ‘Formatting’, you will then see that there is an option ‘Format’ which brings up a drop down menu:


Select ‘Paragraph’ and under ‘Indentations’ change this to the margins you wish to use for your OSCOLA quotes:


Select ‘New documents based on this template’ and then click ‘OK’:


  • Contents and Indexing

The other feature which you may find it useful to know, particularly for longer pieces of research, is how to create an index or contents page. Word does have tools which will allow you to do both automatically. Huge detail won’t be provided here as these are unlikely to be useful to you at LLM level, but you should be aware of these for future academic work.

To create an index, go to ‘References’ then ‘Insert Index’:


For a full guide on how to use this feature, you can use the Microsoft support page.

Under ‘References’ you will also find ‘Table of Contents’:


Again, there is a Microsoft support page where you will find full details of how to use this feature.

You will quickly find, as you begin to research and use references, the most common features that you need to use in Word. There are full guides available online for all of Word’s features, so it is always worth Googling if you have a problem, but it is also worth familiarising yourself with this before the pressures of coursework begin.

[1] Like this!

[2] Example taken from the full OSCOLA guide

[3] Full OSCOLA guide, 8

[4] Full OSCOLA guide, 8

Planning and Organising Research – Amy’s Approach


Starting research can be daunting. For me, I can also lack the motivation to start working in the first place!

Stage 1) Finding a place to start

To make it easier for myself and ‘ease’ myself into the research project ahead, I like to read the title/question set and ask myself these questions:

  • What sources of law will I need to refer to?
  • What am I supposed to be analysing?
  • What do key academics think about the issue?
  • What do I think about the issue?

I feel once I locate these reading materials, I’ve accomplished something, which motivates me to start in earnest.

Stage 2) Research and reading

After identifying the key issues in the assessment question, I start to compile a list and notes of the reading that I’ve already done. During this time to help me identify further reading, I ask myself these questions:

  • Did the reading help me identify the sources of law?
    • If so, where can I find them?
    • If not, what sources of law are applicable?
  • Were further sources of secondary literature identified i.e. in the footnotes or in the seminar hand-outs?
    • Academics will substantiate their arguments by footnoting the work of other scholars. This forms a trail of ‘breadcrumbs’ that I will highlight and read as part of my research.
  • I search on Westlaw and HeinOnline for further relevant sources and after reading the abstracts, I download the relevant ones to read.

My current research is examining the legal protection for the right to food in Tanzania. By asking myself the above questions, I know I need to examine the primary sources of law: The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the African Charter and also, the Constitution of Tanzania.

I also tackling my reading list. These are usually secondary sources found via HeinOnline and Westlaw, as well as further reading list of books and other documents that I drew up after following the ‘bread crumbs’ from earlier reading.

Stage 3) Note-taking

I like tables. For me, they help me gather my thoughts. On a piece of A4, I draw up a table that looks something like this:


Here I’ve written the author, year, book/journal title, main arguments, critique and page numbers.

NB: Page numbers are extremely useful for writing and footnoting later on; there are times where I’ve neglected to pinpoint specific pages and regretted it later when I’m frantically trying to find the reference point!

Under critique, I include my own analysis.  If it’s another academic has a different argument, I will write a note to myself. For example, “Henry Hillman: Contrasts this notion with xyz’.

Stage 4) Analysis and writing

Time management is an important aspect of work. Don’t spend too much time reading/gather notes and leaving yourself only 2-3 days writing, because if you’re anything like me, there will be days where you do not write anything or you stare blankly at your computer screen!!!

Personally, I start with the introduction. The introduction is subject to change but it’s a good place to start because I establish the central argument – what am I examining and my perspective. I also identify the scope of my research and the structure. The structure is important to me, as makes me think about sub-headings and sections I will need to write.

I create a skeleton structure for myself within Word. I then start to write in each section (often not in order). The structure will often change as you reflect on your writing; sub-headings will change and so will the introduction. This is why it is a good idea to leave yourself time to edit and proofread before submission.

The table I created at Stage 3 is then referred to during this writing stage, because I can refer back to academic arguments and help substantiate my own one. It allows me to pinpoint page numbers and authors without having to search for it again.

Stage 5) Proofreading and editing

Hopefully, I will have completed the assignment before the deadline. I give myself a day of rest and refer back to it. At this stage, I read it aloud to ensure that the grammar, punctuation and arguments make sense.

At this point, I also start compiling the bibliography in a separate blank Word document from the table I created in Stage 3. After reading/editing the assignment two-three times and I am happy with the content, I paste the bibliography at the end and submit!