Dear Students,

Remember the following points with regard to the preparation, general outline and set up of your Constitutional Law 312 research paper due 28 April 2015:


The major assignment must be 8 typed pages in length, excluding the cover page and bibliography.


  • 12 pt, Arial font;
  • 1,5 line spacing; and
  • standard margins.


You are expected to do an independent literature search and to rely on a variety of sources. This includes relevant jurisprudence as well as academic articles in legal journals and books. Note that Google and Wikipedia are not appropriate research sources. Newspaper reports and sources from other disciplines (for example, political science) should be used with care and circumspection and are no substitute for references to literature dealing with the legal aspects.

Preparation of argument

You are required to formulate a clear argument and a mere summary of the literature (for example, case law) is insufficient. For instance, when you are asked to analyse a judgment you are expected to engage with it critically. Ask yourself whether the judgment is internally contradictory, whether it is in line with previous case law, whether it rests upon the best possible interpretation of the Constitution (or legislation), etc.

Technical editing

It is vitally important to read through your essay more than once, to correct language and typing errors and to reformulate unwieldy and ill-considered sentences.


Your essay must be carefully planned and structured. You must, at the very outset, indicate what the essay is about or which arguments you are going to advance in your essay. Use an introduction for this purpose. The end of the essay should also contain a concise summary of your main arguments. Use a concluding section for this purpose.


Information from your research can be incorporated into your essay / research paper in the following three ways:

  • a summary of the main idea of an entire work (source) in your own words;
  • paraphrase a source’s idea(s) or words in detail;
  • verbatim words / sentences from sources.

As a rule of thumb, you should always remember that whenever words or ideas are borrowed from sources such as books, magazines, newspapers, songs, movies, websites, etcetera, the author’s work must be acknowledged by including an appropriate reference (footnote).

The following list sets out different sources where you have to provide a reference (footnote):

  • Summaries, paraphrases, direct quotations;
  • Copies of diagrams, illustrations, charts, pictures;
  • Opinions of third parties;
  • Research results from third parties (for example case studies or statistics).

How to avoid plagiarism

  • Planning your assignment / research paper is the first step to avoid plagiarism. By planning ahead, you know that you will be using sources other than your own ideas and can therefore already start planning how you will incorporate these sources in your assignment / research paper.
  • Take notes while conducting research and record your sources accurately and completely. You could even include notes to identify whether you intend to use a source verbatim or by paraphrasing so that you would remember to insert quotation marks in the case of verbatim. This is very important!
  • Do not copy and paste any content from your research directly into your own assignment / research paper. Ever. Rather make notes on a separate document and record the source accurately.
  • Where possible, print your sources so you can refer to it again later or save them in a folder on your computer using the full source reference as a file name.
  • Read your researched sources repeatedly until you understand it and how you want to use it in your own assignment / research paper. Then when you paraphrase or summarise, do so without referring back to the original source.
  • Err on the side of caution – when you are unsure where an idea in your work originated from, rather cite the source.
  • Refrain from reading a fellow student (or previous year’s student’s) assignment / research paper for “inspiration.”
  • Learn how to paraphrase properly.
  • When you translate a source, remember to reference the source.
  • If you are unsure whether to reference a source, ask your lecturer, lecturer’s assistant or writing consultant.
  • Use Turnitin. It will identify those sections in your work where you have used sources from elsewhere and you can make sure that you have referenced those sections accurately.


Chantelle Golombick