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Research Programmes

The School of Law offers two postgraduate research degrees, the M.Litt (Master in Letters) and the Ph.D. (Doctor in Philosophy). The Law School has a reputation for excellence in terms of research supervision. It currently has approximately 63 students registered for M.Litt./Ph.D. degrees across a wide range of areas, some of whom have formed into research groupings. Seminars are organised on a regular basis to provide a forum for postgraduate research students to present and discuss their work.

If you plan to carry out your degree by research, you are advised to contact the Director of Teaching and Learning (Postgraduate)with your research proposal and an up-to-date CV and arrange a suitable supervisor before submitting your application. You should initially consult the full-time academic staff listing for further information.

Students commencing the M.Litt. or Ph.D. programme must complete a 10 ECTS taught module on Postgraduate Legal Research in the first semester of their studies. Postgraduate research students who are reading for a Ph.D. are considered to be on probation for the first year of their studies, after which they must be able to demonstrate to the Director of Teaching and Learning (Postgraduate) that they have made sufficient progress before continuing with their registration. Ph.D. students must also undergo a confirmation process, typically during the second year. This involves the submission of material for consideration by a panel of Law School staff, followed by an interview. Students must be confirmed before they can submit a Ph.D. thesis for examination.

A series of seminars for all postgraduate research students is organised on an ongoing basis. This is designed to enhance the students' academic and social experience at the Law School and at Trinity College. The seminars cover a range of topics relating to research and scholarship and also provide a forum for students to present and discuss their work with fellow research students and academic staff.

If you are interested in applying for a postgraduate degree by research, you should contact the Director of Teaching and Learning (Postgraduate), attaching a research proposal, which outlines your area of interest and the focus of your proposed research project, as well as an up-to-date CV, before making a formal application.

A Ph.D. normally takes between 3-4 years of full-time research and writing to complete, subject to satisfactory progress being demonstrated at each stage of the process (in particular probation (year 1); confirmation (year 2); and viva-voce (year 3/4), as well as completion of the 10 ECTS component – LA8001 (see below for further details)).

The M.Litt. degree generally takes between 1-2 years of full-time research.

Postgraduate Legal Research Module: (LA8001) 10 ECTS

This module is compulsory for students in the first year of a postgraduate research degree at the Law School. The aim of the module is to support research students in establishing a solid foundation for their research and writing. The module is conducted as a small group seminar and brings together students and members of the Law School staff for discussion on a range of themes related to legal research, such as formalities, research methods, publication and conference participation.

The module includes a consideration of the nature of postgraduate legal research with particular emphasis on its educational objectives. There are also practical sessions on the organisational elements of postgraduate research such as establishing a framework for research, formulating research questions and planning the stages of a programme of research. Additional sessions focus on the importance of legal writing at postgraduate level and on recent developments in the use of electronic research resources.

The module also incorporates a series of seminars on legal research methodologies. Individual members of the Law School staff and occasional guest lecturers lead class discussions of diverse methodologies such as legal theory, historical legal research, international and comparative perspectives, empirical work and multi-disciplinary research. A key objective of this aspect of the module is to draw on shared experiences and identify common challenges and opportunities that legal researchers encounter.

A central theme of the module is the significance of research and writing beyond the immediate context of a postgraduate research degree. Students are encouraged to reflect on the potential application of research and writing in a range of academic and professional contexts. Students are expected to engage actively in seminar discussion and to make occasional short in-class presentations in relation to their research. The assessment for the module takes the form of short written and oral assignments in which students apply ideas discussed in the module to their own research.

Learning Outcomes:

On successful completion of this module, students should be able to:

  • Describe in detail the role of postgraduate research and writing in legal education and scholarship.
  • Articulate the substantive objectives of their research and formulate a research question.
  • Formulate a structure for their proposed research and a viable research plan.
  • Identify and debate various methodologies employed in advanced legal research.
  • Explain their chosen research methodologies and link those methodologies to their substantive research goals.
  • Engage in effective legal research including the use of electronic resources.

Teaching: 1-2 hours of lectures per week during the first semester.

Assessment: 100% Coursework

Assessment is based on a range of short written and oral submissions. These include the production of an abstract; the formulation of research questions; an analysis of research methods; and a short oral presentation. These should all be completed and assessed during the first semester of the first year.

Lecturer: Dr Deirdre Ahern


LERU European Exchange Programme

To enrich their doctoral studies experience and to facilitate the international mobility of PhD candidates, PhD candidates at the School of Law are fortunate to have the possibility of spending part of their doctoral studies abroad. The School of Law, Trinity College Dublin has joined with a number of select partner universities of law faculties within the prestigious League of European Research Universities ( to offer an exchange scheme. The exchange scheme aimed specifically at permitting PhD candidates to spend up to eight weeks abroad at certain partner LERU institution within Europe. 



Director of Postgraduate Teaching and Learning:

Dr. Deirdre Ahern, School of Law, Trinity College, Dublin 2
Tel (Country Code + 353) (01) 896 3018; Fax (Country Code + 353) (01) 677 0449; Email:

Postgraduate Research Course Office:

Ms Kelley McCabe, School of Law, Trinity College, Dublin 2
Tel (Country Code + 353) (01) 679 2392; Fax (Country Code + 353) (01) 677 0449; Email