A Central Thesis

An argument needs to have a central thesis (also called a central contention or proposition), which is developed and supported throughout the paper.

The thesis represents the author's 'position' or 'point of view' on the topic under consideration. If you have been given a question for your essay, your thesis or central contention represents your 'best answer' to that question.

A justified judgment

Of course, the essay writer's point of view is informed by research on the law and supporting material; it is not a personal perspective. Other legal analysts, however, may take a different view of the same materials.

This is why the author needs to explain their reasoning and cite the sources they have used, especially the legislation and case law that they have deemed applicable.

There are no right or wrong answers to essay questions; only strong or weak arguments, supported by more or less comprehensive legal research.

Stated early

The central contention of a law essay should be stated clearly, succinctly and early – you tell the reader what you are going to argue before you proceed to do so. The finished paper does not mirror the essay writing process in this respect.

An essay writer rarely formulates their argument in full before they have researched the topic and drafted sections of the paper. Indeed, the central argument represents the conclusion that the author has reached as a result of their research and analysis. Consider the following examples.

Example 1

Question: 'Recent anti-terrorist measures are totally inadequate: they afford Australians almost no protection from the very real threat of terrorist attack.' Discuss.

After conducting your research and thinking about the issues and arguments raised in the research materials you may conclude and hence argue that:

Recent anti-terrorist measures, while not perfect, are comprehensive and provide Australians with a reasonable measure of protection, proportional to the threat of a terrorist attack.

Example 2

Question: 'In Australia, tort decisions involving claims against schools have resulted in schools becoming virtual insurers of students’ safety.' Discuss.

After conducting your research and thinking about the issues and arguments raised in the research materials, you may conclude and hence argue that:

The imposition of a more stringent duty than that to take reasonable care departs from the basic principles of negligence by dismissing considerations such as the practicability of precautions and the probability and likely gravity of potential injury.