Instructor(s): Malcolm Thorburn

For graduate students, the course number is LAW8001HS.

This section of this course is offered on campus, for students who can attend in person. In order to safeguard the health and safety of students, there is a possibility that all sections of this class will convert to a remote format for all or part of the term. To enrol in this course all students must meet or exceed the tech requirements for enrolment in University of Toronto courses, which can be found here []

To encourage original doctrinal, inter-disciplinary, or empirical research, graduate students may gain credits by participating in the Directed Research Program. Graduate students may apply to write one directed research paper per year, of between 1 and 3 credits, under the supervision of a graduate faculty member. Team research projects are not permitted.

Each credit requires approximately 3,500 words. For each directed research paper, students should have at least two meetings per term with the supervising faculty member, and submit a penultimate draft before submitting a final draft. No student may receive more than three directed research credits in one year.

Proposals must include a detailed statement of the project, and an explanation of the number of credits requested. Written requests with a one-page outline must be submitted to the Assistant Dean, Graduate Program for consideration by the Graduate Directed Research Committee. See guidelines below.

Step 1: Preparing your Research Proposal
Interested students should approach full-time members of the faculty whose area of expertise aligns with the students research topic to discuss their project and seek supervision. Although joint supervision arrangements are permitted with faculty from other departments, at least one of the supervisors must be from the Faculty of Law.

Under the guidance of their proposed supervisors, students should prepare a one-page outline of their research project including:

  • a description of the topic to be pursued,
  • the research methods to be employed,
  • any expected challenges, and
  • a preliminary bibliography (beyond the one-page outline).

1.1 Research Topic
The selected topic must make conceptual sense, have sufficient academic content and be pursued by adequate research methods. The project should preferably aim at producing a publishable paper in whole or part.

Both the supervisor and Committee will ensure that the proposed topic has sufficient academic content, and that the research methods are adequate. In particular they will satisfy themselves that the project can be done in the time allotted, and that the research material is available without any obstacles to its use, such as confidentiality.

1.2 Research Methods
Interdisciplinary and empirically-oriented research projects may be permitted. In the cases of empirical research, the final paper should reflect not merely the results of data gathering, but an analysis of the data and, where appropriate, of the methods used.

1.3 Research Involving Human Subjects
The University of Toronto requires that all graduate student and faculty research involving human subjects be reviewed and approved by a Research Ethics Board (REB) before work can begin. This includes interviews. The standards can be reviewed at

Step 2: Submitting your Application
Proposals must be approved by faculty supervisors before being submitted to the Assistant Dean, Graduate Program though the Graduate Program Office. It is the responsibility of the student to ensure adequate time to discuss a proposal with their supervisor and obtain approval before the deadline for submission of the proposal to the Assistant Dean and Graduate Directed Research Committee.

Students planning to start their project in September should submit a proposal to their intended supervisor at least one week before the first day of term. Students planning to start in January should approach their intended supervisor before the end of the first term and agree on a date for submission of a proposal so as to ensure supervision approval before the submission to the Assistant Dean.

2.1 Deadlines
The proposal, together with the Directed Research Form available here:, must be submitted to the Assistant Dean by the deadlines shown on the Sessional Dates available at The Graduate Directed Research Committee may suggest that the student amplify or amend the proposal prior to making a final decision.

The deadlines are designed to ensure that Directed Research approval can be determined before the deadline for adding and dropping courses so that students' programs can be finalized in a timely fashion. Therefore, extensions will be granted only in exceptional circumstances.

2.2 Evaluation Process
The general test to be used in accepting or rejecting a project is whether the topic is capable of supporting a paper suitable for publication (either in whole or part or in adapted form) and whether it will make a new contribution to an area. "Publication" will not be interpreted narrowly. For example, the submission of a written brief to a governmental or law reform agency might be eminently suitable.

The principles which will guide the Committee in making the credit allocation are these:

  • Each credit requires approximately 3,500 words.
  • Two credits is the most common allocation. However, where a graduate student can demonstrate that the magnitude or complexity of the project and the demand on time, by contrast with other courses, requires an additional credit, the Committee may allot one additional credit.
  • If the research involves use of human subjects, ethics review may be required. Please review the information included under Research with Human Subjects shown above.
  • In particular circumstances where the research work would more sensibly be spread over two terms, the Committee may allow credit to be allocated over two terms.

Note: Students may not change the number of credits for their project once it has been approved by the Graduate Directed Research Committee.

2.3 Results
The Committee will undertake to have read and approved (or raised questions about) the proposals by the add/drop date in each term.

Step 3: Meeting the Credit Requirements
Once the committee has approved the project, it is the responsibility of the student to make sure that the following requirements will be met.

3.1 Supervision
Students will meet with their faculty supervisors regularly and at least twice per term, to discuss the progress of the research.

3.2 High Quality Research
The work is expected to be of high quality and will be judged by the supervisor(s) according to the thoroughness of the research displayed, the difficulty of the problems addressed the degree of originality, the coherence of structure and argument, and the extent to which the papers fulfill the goals set forth at the start of the term.

3.3 Deadline for Submission of Completed Research
Students are required to submit their completed work by the date determined by their faculty supervisors, but by no later than the final deadline for submission of written work during the term, as determined by the administration. When all credits are allocated to one term, the work must be completed by the deadline date for written work for that term.

Credit note
1-3 credits
Academic year
2020 - 2021

At a Glance

Second Term