The HSC Legal Studies paper is out of 100 marks, where over half of those marks come from essay-based questions.
65 marks, to be precise.
So it’s pretty clear that nailing your long-responses in HSC Legal Studies is crucial to doing well!
Knowledge of the course content is important, obviously, but being able to organise the information into a concise, coherent and persuasive response is equally important.
This article will not only try to cover, step-by-step, how to write a Band 6 response for HSC Legal Studies, but dispel some common Legal Studies essay-writing myths!
We’ll be working through the Crime question from the 2015 HSC Legal Studies paper:
As the Crime response is shorter than the other essays, it should be around 600 words.
However, the same general essay-writing principles this article details also apply to the longer essay questions in Section III (the two options)!
The main difference is that these two should be longer and more detailed with more examples given, totalling about 1000 words.
Step 1: Introduction
First of all, make an indisputable general statement about the topic area. This should not be controversial, or a subjective argument.
Usually, it is safest to generally describe the topic in a contemporary sense.
For example, “Various intermingling domestic and international measures exist which aim to deal with transnational crime”.
Is it absolutely crucial you directly answer the question.
It is painfully common that students simply describe the domestic and international measures used to deal with international crime – don’t do this!
You are telling the marker how effective they are, therefore it is an argumentative, critical response.
Make sure you identify exactly how effective are domestic and international measures in dealing with international crime.
Quantify this by describing precisely what your viewpoint is, whether that be very effective, somewhat effective or not effective at all.
Whatever your response (and there is not one correct answer, it’s all about how good your argument is as a whole!), this is your main line of argument/thesis.
For example, “Domestic and international measures have only been somewhat effective in engaging with, and combating this type of crime due to *insert reason*”.
Outline your argument
Now that you’ve outlined your thesis, you have to list the reasons why.
You’re describing what topics/issues your essay will cover in order to prove your thesis.
Generally listing the topic areas is sufficient and you don’t need to get into too much depth.
For example, “This is evident in the areas of *list your topics*”.
Step 2: Body
This essay will prove its thesis by exploring four points: drugs trafficking, arms trade, people smuggling and money laundering. This would make four paragraphs, with one point per section.
However, if one of your topics is more easily understood when explained in two paragraphs, there is nothing to prevent you from doing so.
What is important is making sure you maintain a balanced argument.
Don’t write 6 paragraphs on one of your points, and squish the last three into a paragraph! Try to place an equal amount of weight on all your topics.
Begin each paragraph with a topic sentence.
As in an English essay, this sentence serves to explain what you will cover in the paragraph, and how that relates to the question/your thesis.
These need to be clear, as they mark the logical progression of your argument.
For example, “The difficulty of cooperation between nationals reveals the ineffectiveness of international measures in dealing with transnational crime, which is clearly demonstrated in the prevalence of drug trafficking.”
After this, you need to explain your idea.
There are many acronyms to use, but my favourite is EEE:
- Explain, Elaborate, Example
You don’t necessarily have to use this if you’re writing perfectly coherent and flowing paragraphs.
But for the majority of us, following this structure ensures a good paragraph:
Explain: The inability of countries to create coherent and consistent action against transnational crime and drug syndicates in particular highlight a major weakness in international measures against transnational crime.
Elaborate: Despite the existence of anti-drug measures adopted internationally, such as the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs (1961) and the Convention against the Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (1988), the continued pervasiveness of large-scale drug trafficking reveals the inadequacy of these laws to target the root cause of international drug crime.
Example: Operation Dayu, a crackdown by Australian authorities on money laundering and drug trafficking centred in Macau, revealed the “monumental struggle against global, multibillion-dollar crime behemoths” (McKenzie, Sydney Morning Herald, 2013).”
Lastly, finish your paragraph with a linking sentence, which brings your point back to your thesis.
For example, “Therefore, it is clear that international measures to combat drug trafficking have not been effective in eliminating drug crime.”
Step 3: Conclusion
This is where you re-state your thesis, which in other words, is re-phrasing it.
Afterwards, re-state the points you have made, for the purpose of reinforcing your original point (thesis).
At this point, do not add any new examples or ideas, ever!
It is clear that issues of state sovereignty and the complexity of international cooperation have yet to be properly addressed with measures against international crime. This has resulted in a moderately effective system of combating international trade, people smuggling and money laundering. The inability of the law in allowing cooperation between nations, as well as a lack of understanding of the core of international crime is evident.
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Sophia Zou completed the HSC in a while back in 2013, however still considers it her mission here to help students make the most of their final years at high school. Her interests include political science, Simon and Garfunkel, and pretending to be a tea aficionado. Alongside tutoring at Art of Smart Education, she spends her time playing the piano and studying Government & IR and Languages at the University of Sydney.