Books, Phd

PhD advice book reviews, Part 4: “Getting a PhD in Law” by Caroline Morris and Cian Murphy

The last of the four books that I bought to help me prefer for my PhD was “Getting a PhD in Law” by Caroline Morris and Cian Murphy, 2011. Obviously the book is aimed at prospective and current law PhD students, and I wouldn’t recommend it for students of other disciplines.

The book covers: preparing a research application; legal methodologies; writing your thesis; the supervisory relationship; PhD problems; the viva; publishing your work; and finally life after the PhD. The book isn’t quite as accessible as other PhD advice books that I have read, as I had to re-read certain sections to make sure I understood them fully. The advice in the book is solid, but I didn’t notice any particular techniques that they suggested that differed to what I’d already read in other books.

That said, I really struggled when writing my PhD research proposal’s methodology section. My first draft basically said “I will go to the library and read lots. Maybe I will interview people but I don’t know who or why.” Not exactly a winning research proposal! I read the legal methodology section in this book and it gave me all the information I needed to understand a) which legal methodologies existed and b) which methodology suited my project. I really believe that reading this section, and thereby strengthening my methodology section, helped me to be accepted onto the PhD studentship. I owe a lot to this section!

Likewise, the authors clearly know what they’re taking about in the legal field. They have included an appendix with a list of useful resources for legal students/ practising lawyers. The list includes websites linked to funding in academia, such as Research Councils UK; websites that list current PhD vacancies, such as http://www.findaphd.com; and websites that provide light relief throughout the PhD process through cartoons and humour. If you’re a lawyer you’ve probably heard of most of them, but there will some that you probably haven’t. Either way, it’s handy having all those links in one place.

They also include a list of their favourite “blawgs” (legal blogs) in the book which is extremely useful. One of the blogs (sorry, I’m not using the word ‘blawg’, it’s ridiculous) that they recommend, along with the main EU and UK legal institutions, is IPKat at http://www.ipkitten.blogspot.com. The blog focuses on developments in the area of intellectual property law, which is what my PhD will focus on. Somehow, I’d never heard of the blog, but after checking it out, I found that it’s simply brilliant! I would recommend you have a look for yourself if intellectual property law interests you at all.

I think that this book contains a wealth of resources, funding organisations and legal organisations relevant to anyone doing a law PhD. Whilst the content is a good overview of the PhD process, I would recommend reading this book in conjunction with a more in-depth thesis-writing book to make sure you gain a thorough understanding of how to tackle each aspect of a PhD. It is still a very worthwhile read for legal students, particularly the methodology section and lists of resources.

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