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Study information

Qualitative Empirical Legal Research

Module titleQualitative Empirical Legal Research
Module codeLAWM152
Academic year2023/4
Module staff

Professor Richard Moorhead (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

This module covers core qualitative methods in socio-legal (empirical) research, developing a critical understanding of research design, data sources, data collection, and analysis in empirical research in law as well as the ethical issues raised.

Module aims - intentions of the module

The module particularly aims to be enable to explain, critique, and apply core qualitative methods in socio-legal research to research problems. As such it is essential preparation for the MRes dissertation and increasingly useful in fields such as legal design and legal service evaluation.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Demonstrate a good understanding of how differing qualitative research designs and methods can be applied to socio-legal research questions
  • 2. Demonstrate an ability to critically evaluate the appropriateness and execution of qualitative research methods, design and analytical approaches in socio-legal contexts
  • 3. Be aware of the range of ethical issues involved in empirical research in law.
  • 4. Be aware of the strengths and weaknesses of comparative and cross-cultural research

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 5. Demonstrate and be able to apply sensible choices about qualitative research design to a research question
  • 6. Be able to critically evaluate qualitative research design, methods, and analytical choices in empirical research
  • 7. Demonstrate a knowledge of the key steps in delivering a research project deploying core methods including understanding qualitative data analysis and being able to make effective choices about data analysis

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 8. be able to use IT effectively and appropriately to help analyse data from a variety of sources;
  • 9. be able to critically reflect on research design, data collection and analysis;
  • 10. be able to undertake independent/self-directed learning (including time management) to achieve consistent, proficient and sustained attainment;

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):

  • The strengths and weaknesses of different qualitative research methods
  • The role and significance of research questions
  • Sampling for qualitative research
  • Design choices
  • Research Ethics, cross-cultural and cross-jurisdictional data.
  • Instrument choice and design
  • Data collection and analysis
  • Further methodological issues: cross-cultural and cross-jurisdictional data.
  • Practical research design exercises.


Teaching sessions will be a mixture of staff led discussion, student presentations, and practical exercises. Preparation for classes, which may include the submission of exercises in advance as part of the portfolio to be prepared for assessment, will be essential.

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 Teaching1510 x 1.5-hour seminars
Guided Independent Study80Preparation for seminars / assigned seminar readings
Guided Independent Study25Preparation for, and writing of, the formative assessment
Guided Independent Study30Preparation for, and writing of, the summative assessment

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Draft portfolio entry learning exercise500 words1-10Individual written feedback (with oral feedback upon request)

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
Portfolio of 5 learning exercises from the class1005 exercises (maximum total of 2,500 words)1-10Individual written feedback (with oral feedback upon request)

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Portfolio of 5 learning exercises (maximum total of 2,500 words)Portfolio of 5 learning exercises (maximum total of 2,500 words)1-10Referral/Deferral period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Clark, T., Foster, L., Sloan, L & Bryman, A. (2021) Bryman’s Social Research Methods (6th Edition). Oxford University Press. A book worth having ready access to.
  • Cane, P. & Kritzer, H.M. (2010). Oxford Handbook of Empirical Legal Research. Introduction, pp1-8.
  • Silverman, D. (2007). A Very Short, Fairly Interesting and Reasonably Cheap Book about Qualitative Research. London: Sage – Chapter 2: On Finding and Manufacturing Qualitative Data (pp31-55).
  • Ellison, L., & Munro, V.E. (2010). Getting to (not) guilty: examining jurors’ deliberative processes in, and beyond, the context of a mock rape trial. Legal Studies, 30(1), 74-97.
  • Roulston, K. (2010)Considering quality in qualitative interviewing. Qualitative Research, 10(2) 1-30.
  • Vaughan, S., & Oakley, E. (2016). ‘Gorilla exceptions’ and the ethically apathetic corporate lawyer. Legal Ethics, 19(1), 50-75.
  • Empson, L. (2017). Elite interviewing in professional organizations. Journal of Professions and Organization, 5, 58-69
  • Dhami, M.K., & Ayton, P. (2001). Bailing and Jailing the Fast and Frugal Way. Journal of Behavioural Decision Making, 14, 141-168.

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Key words search

Qualitative Empirical Legal Research Skills

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date