Approaches to Research in Law (ESRC) (LAWM686)

StaffDr Catherine Dupre - Convenor
Professor Anne Barlow - Lecturer
Dr Helena Wray - Lecturer
Professor Rebecca Probert - Lecturer
Dr Stephen Skinner - Lecturer
Credit Value15
Academic Year2017/8
ECTS Value7.5
NQF Level7
Duration of Module Term 1: 11 weeks;

Module aims

Firstly, this module aims to make you aware of a range of possible approaches to legal research, to locate the specific socio-legal and empirical approaches in a wider methodological framework and to open up your methodological horizon. For each approach, you will be made aware of the key authorities, together with their respective merits and the possible difficulties generally associated with them. As a result, this module is meant to give you greater awareness of the methodological dimensions of research, and to guide you in choosing an appropriate approach (or combination of approaches) for your own research. Overall, it is meant to increase the scholarly rigour of your research.

Secondly, the module aims to encourage your independent research skills and participation in class discussion through student-centred interactive workshops. These workshops are further designed to give you the opportunity to put into practice a number of approaches, both separately and in combination, and to test your ideas and share experience with fellow students with the tutor’s guidance and advice.

Thirdly, the module aims to help you design your own methodological approach, by either following one of the approaches discussed in class and deepening your understanding, or choosing to combine two (possibly more) approaches in a way that makes most sense for your own research.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Demonstrate in writing and orally deep and critical awareness of a range of possible methodological approaches to law, including empirical and socio-legal methods
  • 2. Demonstrate in writing and orally deep and systematic knowledge of a specific set of approaches more appropriate to your own research
  • 3. Compare, analyse and synthesise your understanding of these approaches and apply them in formulating research questions and in designing your own methodological framework

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 4. Demonstrate detailed and comprehensive knowledge and understanding of a range of legal approaches and of the significance of methodological choices for legal research
  • 5. Demonstrate flexible and innovative ability to select an appropriate approach (or a combination of approaches) for your own research
  • 6. Demonstrate detailed and comprehensive understanding and critical awareness of how your chosen approach(es) to research is (are) situated in relation to other approaches, as well as of their respective limits

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 7. Clarify, plan and undertake tasks confidently and independently, individually and with others, to reflect critically on the learning process and to make use of feedback effectively
  • 8. Identify, retrieve and use the full range of library-based and electronic resources efficiently and autonomously
  • 9. Interact effectively, confidently and proactively within a team/learning group, to share information and ideas, and to manage divergence of opinions in a professional manner

Syllabus plan

  • Whilst the module’s precise content may vary from year to year, it is envisaged that the syllabus will cover some or all of the following topics (with some possible variation in the order of delivery):

    •  Introduction and empirical approaches to law
    •  Comparative approaches to law
    •  Historical approaches to law
    •  Theoretical approaches to law
    •  Planning research 

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities1515 contact hours in 5 student-centred three-hour interactive workshops
Guided independent study80Locating and reading materials (80 hours)
Guided Independent Study20Preparing synthetic notes and short oral presentations for the specific task set in each workshop
Guided independent study35Assessment preparation: conducting research, producing formative work and writing up the summative work

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
One reflective log per student700 words1-9Individual written feedback
One detailed essay plan corresponding to the summative essay 700 words1-9Individual written feedback

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Reflective Log Essay253 logs, 1000 words per entry; total 3000 words1-9Written feedback
Essay 753000 words1-9Written feedback

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Reflective Log EssayReflective log essay (3 logs, 1000 words per entry; total 3000 words)1-9August/September reassessment period
EssayEssay (3,000 words)1-9August/September reassessment period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Indicative  Reading: 
Auchmuty R., ‘Recovering Lost Lives: Researching Women in Legal History’ (2015) Journal of Law and Society 42(1): 34-52

Burton, M and Watkins, D,  Research Methods in Law  (Routledge, 2013) 
Baldwin, R ,  ‘Why Rules Don't Work’ (1990) 53 Modern Law Review  321-37 
Baldwin, R and Cave, M,Understanding Regulation (Oxford University Press, 1999) 
Banakar, R and Travers, M (eds), An Introduction to Law and Social Theory,( Hart Publishing, 2002) 
Bottomley, A. and Conaghan J. (eds), Feminist Theory and Legal Strategy, (Blackwell Publishers, 1993). 
Frankenberg, G, Comparative Law as Critique (E Elgar, 2016)

Feely, M. and Rubin, E,  Judicial Policymaking and the Modern State (Cambridge University Press, 2001) 
Fineman M. and Thomadsen, N. (eds), At the Boundaries of Law (Routledge, 1991) 
Kunz et al., The Process of Legal Research, (Aspen, 2000) 
Harlow, C. and Rawlings, R., Pressure Through Law (Routledge, 1992) 
Hart, H.L, The Concept of Law, ( Clarendon Press, 1961) 
Merry, S., . ‘Global Human Rights and Local Social Movements in a Legally Plural World’ (1997) Canadian Journal of Law and Society 12(2): 247-271. 
O'Donovan, K,  Sexual Divisions in Law (Weidenfeld, 1985) 
Robertson S., ‘Searching for Anglo-American Digital Legal History’ (2016) Law and History Review 34(4): 1047-69

Smart, C., Feminism and the Power of Law (Routledge, 1989) 
Snyder, F., ‘Governing Economic Globalisation: Global Legal Pluralism and European Law’ (1999) European Law Journal 5(4): 334-374 
Stychin, C. Legal Methods (Sweet and Maxwell, 1999) 
Tamanaha, B., A General Jurisprudence of Law and Society, (Oxford University Press, 2001)
Teubner, G,  Juridification of Social Spheres (De Gruyter, 1987 ) 
Thomas, P. (ed), Socio Legal Studies (Aldershot1997) 
Twining W., Legal Theory and Common Law (Blackwell, 1986) 
Wickham, G. and Pavlich, G., Rethinking Law Society and Governance: Foucault's Bequest (Hart, 2002). 
Yilmaz, I. ,’The Challenge of Post-Modern Legality and Muslim Legal Pluralism in England’ (2002) Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 28(2):343-354.

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