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Study information

Socio-Legal Research Skills

Module titleSocio-Legal Research Skills
Module codeLAWM687
Academic year2022/3
Module staff

Professor Richard Moorhead ()

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks



Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

This module builds on the generic MRes research training modules (Data Sources and Data Collection in the Social Sciences, Social Science Data Analysis) and Approaches to Research in Law (ESRC remit students). It will deepen your understanding of methods and techniques in socio-legal research, developing a critical understanding of data sources, data collection, and analysis in empirical research in law as well as the ethical issues raised.

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, will be essential.

Module aims - intentions of the module

The module particularly aims to enable you to explain, critique, and apply core methods in socio-legal research to research problems. As such, it is essential preparation for the MRes dissertation. It will increase your abilities in respect to research design and methods, and through practising dissemination skills in individual and group contexts.

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 research designs and methods can be applied to socio-legal research questions;
  • 2. demonstrate an ability to critically evaluate the appropriateness and execution of research methods, design and analytical approaches in socio-legal contexts;
  • 3. demonstrate awareness of the range of ethical issues involved in empirical research in law;
  • 4. demonstrate awareness 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 knowledge and apply sensible choices about research design to a research question;
  • 6. critically evaluate 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 quantitative and qualitative data analysis, and to make effective choices about data analysis.

ILO: Personal and key skills

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

  • 8. use IT effectively and appropriately to help analyse data from a variety of sources;
  • 9. critically reflect on research design, data collection and analysis;
  • 10. write up and present research findings in a systematic way.

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:
• .Research design: theory and methodology in socio-legal case studies.
• Research ethics and empirical research in law: issues, codes and implications.
• 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, focus groups, participant observation, action research), validity, presentation, case studies, new developments.
• Modes of analysis, e.g. content analysis, thematic analysis, and grounded theory.
• Further methodological issues: cross-cultural and cross-jurisdictional data.
• Practical research design exercises, including qualitative analysis, and quantitative analysis using SPSS.


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

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

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities3012 x 2.5 hour seminars
Guided independent study200Seminar preparation and independent reading
Guided independent study70Assessment preparation

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Draft reflective log400 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
3 reflective logs402,100 words in total (each approximately 700 words)1-10Individual written feedback (with oral feedback upon request)
Essay603,000 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
3 reflective logs 3 reflective logs (2,100 words in total; same as above)1-10August/September re-assessment period
EssayEssay (3,000 words) 1-10August/September re-assessment period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

• Eppstein and Martin (2014) An Introduction to Empirical Legal Research (OUP)
• Banakar, R. and Travers M. (eds.) Theory and Method in Socio-Legal Research (Hart, 2005).
• Clark et al, Bryman ‘s Social Research Methods, 6th ed, 2021
• Catrina Denvir, ‘Online and in the Know? Public Legal Education, Young People and the Internet’ (2016) 92 Computers & Education 204;
• Eyal Zamir and Ilana Ritov, ‘Notions of Fairness and Contingent Fees’ (2011) 74 Law & Contemporary Problems.
• Mitu Gulati and Robert E Scott, The Three and a Half Minute Transaction: Boilerplate and the Limits of Contract Design (University of Chicago Press 2013).
• Richard Moorhead, Avrom Sherr and Alan Paterson, ‘Contesting Professionalism: Legal Aid and Non Lawyers in England and Wales’ (2003) 37 Law and Society Review 765;
• Tamara Goriely, ‘Evaluating the Scottish Public Defence Solicitors ’ Office’ (2003) 30 Journal of Law and Society 84.
• Theodore W Ruger and others, ‘The Supreme Court Forecasting Project: Legal and Political Science Approaches to Predicting Supreme Court Decision making’ [2004] Columbia Law Review 1150;
• EW Wright M. P. Ellinghaus, ‘The Common Law of Contracts: Are Broad Principles Better than Detailed Rules?’ (2005) 11 Texas Wesleyan Law Review 399.
• Constantine Boussalis, Yuval Feldman and Henry E Smith, ‘Experimental Analysis of the Effect of Standards on Compliance and Performance’ (2017) 12 Regulation & Governance 277;
• Howard Raiffa, The Art and Science of Negotiation (Harvard University Press 1985)
• Socio-Legal Studies Association, Statement of Ethical Practice, 2002

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Key words search

Socio-Legal Research Skills

Credit value30
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date