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Legal Research & Reasoning

Course Code: LGST 1110
Faculty: Humanities & Social Sciences
Department: Legal Studies
Credits: 3.0
Semester: 15
Learning Format: Lecture
Typically Offered: TBD. Contact Department Chair for more info.
course overview

This course is designed to give students an understanding of the purposes and processes of legal research and reasoning. Students will learn basic legal research skills using predominantly electronic resources. The course will cover the elements of legal analysis and reasoning in common law systems. Through a case review approach, students will look at various substantive law problems to develop an understanding of legal reasoning as one form of analytical thinking.

Course Content

  1. Introduction and Overview
    • Purpose of legal research and reasoning
    • Rationale for developing legal research skills
    • Rationale for understanding the requirement that judges conform to prescribed modes of reasoning.
  2. Sources of Law
    • Primary sources
    • Bills, statutes, regulations, by-laws
    • Judicial decisions
    • Structure of Canada’s court system and hierarchy
    • Doctrines of precedent and stare decisis
    • Briefing cases
    • Secondary sources and their use in legal research
    • Texts, journals, encyclopaedias, digests
  3. Legal Research
    • Methods of finding and updating legislation
    • Citation of legislation
    • Methods of finding and updating case law
    • Citation of case law.
  4. Legal Reasoning in the Common Law System
    • The judicial mandate to interpret and apply the law
    • The complexity of, and constraints on, judicial reasoning
    • Structure and rules that govern judicial reasoning: interpretation of legislation; precedent and stare decisis
    • Judicial flexibility and distinguishing
  5. Methods of Reasoning
    • Inductive and deductive reasoning
    • Arguing from principle
    • Reasoning from prior cases
    • The concepts of clarity, detail, precision and abstraction
    • Concealed issues
    • Critical thinking and the law:
      • legal thinking
      • points of view
      • interpretation and influence
      • assumptions
      • consequences

Methods of Instruction

The course will employ a variety of instructional methods to accomplish its objectives, including some of the following:

  • lectures
  • labs
  • small group discussion
  • audio-visual materials
  • research projects and writing assignments

Means of Assessment

Evaluation will be based on the course objectives and carried out in accordance with Douglas College policy.   The instructor will provide a written course outline with specific evaluation criteria at the beginning of the course.  Evaluation will be based on the following:

  • Exams
  • Labs
  • Assignments in legal research and writing

 An example of one possible evaluation scheme would be:


Labs  20%
Midterm exam  25%
Research writing assignment I  25%
Research writing assignment II     30%
Total 100%

Learning Outcomes

At the conclusion of the course the successful student will be able to:

  1. Explain the importance of legal research skills.
  2. Explain the rationale behind the requirement that judges conform to methods of legal reasoning.
  3. Identify primary sources of law and explain their use in the context of the Canadian legislative and judicial system.
  4. Identify and use secondary sources of law in legal research.
  5. Use electronic and print methods of finding and updating statutory and case law materials.
  6. Write proper citations for all legal materials.
  7. Compare and contrast main elements of Civil and Common Law systems used in Canada.
  8. Explain the theory underlying the Civil and Common Law systems.
  9. Explain the judicial mandate to apply the law and constraint thereon.
  10. Explain the structures and rules governing judicial reasoning, including rules of statutory interpretation, the operation of precedent and stare decisis, judicial flexibility and distinguishing.
  11. Identify and explain different forms of reasoning, including inductive and deductive reasoning, arguing from principle and reasoning from prior cases.
  12. Describe the importance of the concepts of clarity, detail, precision, abstraction and concealed issues in reasoning.
  13. Describe the importance of critical and ethical thinking to legal reasoning.
  14. Research, write and analyze judicial reasoning in case studies.

curriculum guidelines

Course Guidelines for previous years are viewable by selecting the version desired. If you took this course and do not see a listing for the starting semester/year of the course, consider the previous version as the applicable version.

course schedule and availability
course transferability

Below shows how this course and its credits transfer within the BC transfer system. 

A course is considered university-transferable (UT) if it transfers to at least one of the five research universities in British Columbia: University of British Columbia; University of British Columbia-Okanagan; Simon Fraser University; University of Victoria; and the University of Northern British Columbia.

For more information on transfer visit the BC Transfer Guide and BCCAT websites.


If your course prerequisites indicate that you need an assessment, please see our Assessment page for more information.