Research Methods for Law

By Mike McConville; Wing Hong Chui | Go to book overview

Preface and Acknowledgements

Legal research may be carried out for varied reasons. Some use it to identify the sources of law applicable to understanding a legal problem, and then find a solution to the problem that has been identified. It is apparent that practising lawyers are expected to conduct factual and legal research in an effective manner because of the cost implications for their client. Others would use research as a tool to extend our knowledge on aspects of law and the operation of the legal system that are of great interest. Research may also be driven by the policy considerations promoted by bodies such as law reform commissions to investigate social, political and economic implications of current and pro- posed legislation. Increasingly, students are required to engage in research themselves and no longer have their studies confined to textbooks.

No one denies that research in the real world is of increasing importance and that conducting legal research is a complex business. Nevertheless, how far are law students, graduates, the legal profession and academic lawyers equipped to undertake legal research? How are their research skills compara- ble to researchers with a medical science, social science or humanities back- grounds? What pitfalls await the new researcher and can these be avoided or addressed through careful planning? These are indeed very difficult questions, and it is not the intention of this edited volume to look for a complete answer. Rather, it offers general and practical guidance to those who are interested in learning how to use legal research in order to expand the knowledge of legal processes, improve understanding of specific legal problems, and produce find- ings of significance for society, and it sets out questions that a serious researcher needs to ask before embarking upon any important project.

The primary aim of the book is, then, to introduce some of the essential methodologies, approaches and tools of research in relation to different fields of law. Each chapter introduces generic research skills by examining qualitative or quantitative methodologies relevant to all areas of legal research or through

-vii-

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