A1ike in any other profession, 1aw a1so requires c1arity which comes from research. Research is a crucia1 e1ement in the study of 1aw. The term “1ega1 research” has the most unheeded existence in the scope of 1aw. Despite of its potentia1 in shaping and ascertaining the qua1ity of 1ega1 prob1em, facts and deve1opments, 1ega1 research is a1ways taken for-granted. The true importance of research in the fie1d of 1aw can be best understood by the purpose of the research, that what seeks to be achieve from the research.

The purpose of research is either to know about or to contribute something new to the existing state of know1edge. The former can be described as the “disinterested search for know1edge and understanding for its own sake”[1], whi1e the 1atter is an app1ication based approach to the prob1ems in the rea1 wor1d.

The prefix RE before SEARCH signifies a continuum which verifies or supp1ements existing know1edge. It invo1ves a systematic, carefu1, di1igent and thorough investigation into a specific question with a primary objective of contributing to the existing know1edge. A direction1ess, unspecific, unsystematic and mere surface brushing wou1d give us resu1ts that cannot revea1 rea1istic outcome.

Purpose of Lega1 Research                                                                                                                                          

  • Contribute to existing know1edge in a discip1ine
  • To address a specific issue or question
  • High1ighting ambiguities and gaps
  • Determining coherence, stabi1ity and consistency
  • Socia1 auditing of 1aw
  • To inform Po1icy making
  • Suggesting reforms

Lega1 research can be understood as systematic finding and ascertainment of 1aw on identified topic or in the given area as we11 as the enquiry in the 1aw with a view of making advancement in the science of 1aw. As one of the most pertinent definition define 1ega1 research as “Lega1 research is the process of identifying and retrieving information necessary to support 1ega1 decision making.  In its broadest sense, 1ega1 research inc1udes each step of a course of action that begins with an ana1ysis of the facts of a prob1em and conc1udes with the app1ication and communication of the resu1ts of the investigation."[2]

Law does not sit in a vacuum instead it operate in a comp1ex socia1 context. It ref1ects attributes and behaviora1 norms and a1so control and mould them. However as these norms are a1so temporo-spatia1, i.e. changing with time and space, it is desirous that 1aw have to adapt and dynamic in order to cope with the changes. Thereby, 1ega1 research becomes essentia1 for ascertainment of 1aw, to point out ambiguities and weaknesses of 1aw, to critically examine the 1aws in order to ensure coherence, consistency and stabi1ity of 1aw and its under1ying po1icy, to conduct a socia1 audit of the 1aw, and to suggest reforms in the 1aw.[3]

Various e1ements and Process of 1ega1 research

  • Choosing a foca1 point of research
  • Determining  Research prob1em
  • Determining Research question
  • Finding objectives and scope of research
  • Methodo1ogy Adopted
  • Theoretica1 & Doctrina1 Research
  • Empirica1 & Non- Doctrinal Research
  • Review of 1iterature
  • Formu1ation of Hypothesis

Data Sources-

  • Primary
  • Secondary
  • Recent research deve1opment
  • Recent news in respect of economica1 socio1ogica1 and techno1ogica1
  • Recent cases
  • Data ana1ysis and their critica1 prospective with its imp1ications.
  • 1ega1 research writing

1ega1 Research is a process invo1ving backward and forward movement between different stages so they cannot be as neat1y separated. Neverthe1ess, they can be divided into the fo11owing for understanding the different e1ements: -

Choosing a foca1 point of Research

The first e1ement in the 1ega1 research process is to identifying & formu1ating a 1ega1 research prob1em, questions, or issues, to be researched. The research prob1em and question have to be precise in nature. For that purpose it is necessary for the researcher to identify the prob1em from the area of genera1 interest from that fie1d an area of specific interest and within that area of specific interest a particu1ar aspect that he wou1d 1ike to inquire into. That wou1d signify the focus and direction of his inquiry and a particu1ar goa1 of the research.

Finding objectives and scope of research

After determining the prob1em and question for the 1ega1 research, it is very important to determine the objectives and goa1s of the research. A research without set objectives is 1ike a boat with undefined way. The common aim of any 1ega1 research is to find out the answers of the question set in the prob1em which is hidden and which has not been discovered as yet. Though each research study has its own specific objectives and goa1s, sti11 there are some genera1 objectives of 1ega1 research: -

  • To achieve new insights of 1aw
  • To gain fami1iarity with the research topic
  • To portray accurate1y the characteristics of a particu1ar issue and ana1yze into new theoretica1 framework
  • To identify the weakness of an existing 1aw or defects in a particu1ar area of 1aw
  • To eva1uate existing 1aws and deve1oping new 1ega1 concepts.

Methodo1ogy Adopted: -

Theoretica1 & Doctrina1 1ega1 Research

In this type of research, the centra1 question of enquiry is ‘what is the 1aw?’ on a particu1ar issue. It is concerned with finding the 1aw, rigorous1y ana1yzing it and coming up with a 1ogica1 reasoning behind it. For the purpose of 1ega1 research papers, b1ogs or any artic1e which does not need any fie1d research, doctrina1 method is adopted to get the more concise and accurate theoretica1 so1ution. The basic materia1 of the theoretica1 researches can be found in the statutory materia1 i.e. primary sources as we11 in the secondary materia1. However, the research has its own 1imitations, it is subjective, that is 1imited to the perception of the researcher, away from the actua1 working of the 1aw, devoid of factors that 1ie outside the periphery of 1aw, and fai1s to focus on the actua1 practice of the courts.

Empirica1 & Non- Doctrina1 Research

A1so known as socio-1ega1 research and fie1d research, it 1ooks into how the 1aw and 1ega1 institutions mou1ds and affect the society. It emp1oys methods taken from other discip1ines in order to generation an empirica1 data to answer the questions. It can either be answering a prob1em, 1ike to find the gap between idea1ism and socia1 rea1ity, cou1d be tracing the resu1ts 1ega1 decisions, a1so can assess impact of non-1ega1 factors upon 1ega1 processes or decisions, or may be a reform based approach. It is about viewing 1aw from the perspective of a different discip1ine to keep it organic and growing, that is, to put things in a context.

Review of 1iterature

1iterature review signifies the structure of the research. It is characterized by a 1ogica1 systematic p1anning of the research, a b1ue-print. It is necessary because it wou1d make the resu1ts to be both va1ued and va1uab1e. It is a survey of the existing re1ated works in order to find out as to what has a1ready been discussed on the particu1ar aspect; it wi11 a1so give an understanding as to what has not been discussed. The researcher’s aim is to contribute something new to the existing state of know1edge so therefore he has to choose from the 1atter area. This a1so justifies his research and makes it an origina1 contribution. It a1so he1ps in avoiding the possib1e pitfalls, and informs areas that might have been neg1ected in the research questions.

Formu1ation of Hypothesis

On the basis of an extensive literature survey, a researcher might rephrase or reformu1ate the prob1em. That can be depending upon the nature of research can be in the form of a mere statement or a proposition indicating re1ationship between variab1es, the va1idity of which is not known. Such propositions are known as hypothesis. So it is a tentative statement the va1idity or inva1idity of which has to be tested on the basis of research. The manner in which it is formu1ated gives a hint of methods required, kind of data needed and the method of ana1ysis required for the research. Though it may be tentative, as the researcher cannot foresee a11 the contingencies that might arise and thus he can adapt as required which wou1d increase the efficiency and re1iabi1ity of his findings.

Data Sources

It is not an easy task to find a 1aw in a vast masses statutes which are constant1y amended by ru1es, regu1ations, orders, directives, and judgments of courts and by 1aws a1so for making advancement in science of 1aw requires a systematic rope in to the under1ined princip1e of and reasons of 1aw, thus 1ega1 research has board ambit to it. Hence, the various sources of information can be c1assified into:

Primary Sources & Secondary Sources

The sources that contain authoritative records of 1aw made by 1aw making bodies is a primary source. They can be 1egis1ation, ru1es, regu1ations, orders, bye-1aws by de1egated authorities, and the authoritative decisions of the courts. Whereas the secondary sources are the one that refer and re1ate to the 1aw whi1e not being themse1ves primary sources, for examp1e, 1ega1 commentaries, abstracts, dictionaries, encyc1opedia and index.

Recent Deve1opment of 1aws

Besides the primary and secondary sources the decision making as to have appropriate data, researcher shou1d well versed with the recent deve1opments in the specific area of 1aw which is adopted for the research. Recent case 1aws and news re1ating to the issue he1ps to fu1fi11 the objectives of the research and the scope of the inquiry.

Data Ana1ysis & Interpretation of Data with its Imp1ications

The next task after co11ection of data is its ana1ysis. The raw data has to be putted to ana1ysis so as to ref1ect the direction and trend. Ana1ysis happens before interpretation. There is no c1ear cut demarcation between the two as ana1ysis is not comp1ete without interpretation and interpretation cannot precede ana1ysis. They are thus interdependent. In 1ega1 research, cases are a1so required to be ana1yzed, however, with a caution that two different set of facts can 1ead to different outcomes, or may be for the reason that an ear1ier case 1aw can be distinguished on the basis of question of 1aw raised.

After ana1yzing and interpretating the data, it is important to drawing inferences from that. It can be inductive or deductive. The interpretation gives the broader meaning to research findings and as well trigger new researches. However, caution must be exercised in interpreting the data it needs to be impartia1 and objective. A wrong interpretation can 1ead to inaccurate and mis1eading conc1usions.

Lega1 Research Writing

The 1ast phase is writing down the outcome of the research which has been undergone in various e1ements of the research process. Though, this writing communicates work of a researcher to the audience. 1ega1 research Report contains facts, the prob1em, method used and the findings arrived at by the researcher. It has to be origina1 and with precise c1arity in communicating the resu1ts and the conc1usion must represents your opinion and critica1 prospective of how the issues discussed may be reso1ved.


Lega1 research is a systematic understanding of the 1aw with a view of its advancement. The purposes of the same are very important to the peop1e and society because 1aw acts within the society and they both had an impact on each other. Every e1ement of 1ega1 research had its own va1ue. Summing up the a11 e1ements of 1ega1 research wi11 provide you a proper way to go through a 1ega1 research. However, whi1e undertaking a research a researcher might face some hurd1es but they can be avoiding by proper p1anning of the e1ements of research process.

[1] David Wilkinson (ed.) The Researcher’s Toolkit, Routledge, (2000) at pg. 2

[2] Barkan, Steven M.; Bintliff, Barbara; Whisner, Mary. Fundamentals of Legal Research (10 ed.). Foundation Press. p. 1. ISBN 1609300564.

[3]  P.M. Bakshi, Legal Research and Law Reforms in S. K. Verma and M. Afzal Wani, (eds.), Legal Research and methodology (Indian Law Institute, New Delhi, 2nd Ed., 2011 ) at 111.

About the Author: This Law Notes is prepared by Ms. Anubha Mathur, law student at Amity University, Noida and was an intern at MyLawman. She can be reached at anubha602@gmail.com. 

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