Postgraduate Module Descriptor

LAWM687: Socio-Legal Research Skills

This module descriptor refers to the 2021/2 academic year.

Module Content

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):

  • Methodological issues in legal and socio-legal research: positivist and interpretive approaches.
  • Research design: theory, methodology and interdisciplinarity – some case studies.
  • Research ethics and empirical research in law: issues, codes and implications.
  • Data gathering and data protection: from court records to cyber space and beyond.
  • Quantitative methods in socio-legal research: techniques (e.g. structured interviews, questionnaires) validity (including sampling), presentation and case studies.
  • Qualitative methods in socio-legal research: ethnographic techniques (e.g. semi-structured interviews, interpretive biographies, focus groups, participant observation, action research) validity, presentation, case studies, new developments.
  • Modes of analysis, e.g. thematic analysis, content analysis and responsive recent developments.
  • Further methodological issues: cross-cultural and cross-jurisdictional data.
  • Practical research design exercise plus presentation and presentation feedback.
  • Practical research exercise on qualitative methods, e.g. interviews/ethical issues.
  • Two practical research exercises using worksheets on qualitative analysis involving use of N6/NVivo and quantitative analysis involving use of SPSS.
  • Student-led presentation. 

Teaching sessions will first introduce the methodological issues (including issues arising from an interdisciplinary approach) in socio-legal research. They will then consider how the collection/generation of data should fit within a broader research agenda and be sensitive to issues such as privacy and research ethics. This will lead to a consideration in depth of a number of key sources and methods of data collection and analysis routinely employed by social scientists including those conducting empirical research in law. These issues and methods will be explored through case studies and exposure of students to a variety of methods and appropriate practical work, incorporating group work and independent practical exercises which will be interspersed with the staff-led teaching sessions. 

Learning and Teaching

This table provides an overview of how your hours of study for this module are allocated:

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad
30 270 0

...and this table provides a more detailed breakdown of the hours allocated to various study activities:

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities208 (2.5 hour) staff-led seminars
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities104 (2.5 hour) practical workshops
Guided independent study270Private study

Online Resources

This module has online resources available via ELE (the Exeter Learning Environment).