Non-doctrinal research, also known as socio-legal research is legal research
that employs methods taken from other disciplines to generate empirical data to
answer research questions. It can be a problem, policy or law reform based. The
non-doctrinal approach allows the researcher to perform interdisciplinary
research where he analyses law from the perspective of other sciences and
employs these sciences in the formulation of the law.
There are some basic tools of data collection for socio-legal research, like the
Interview, Questionnaire, Schedule, Interview guide, Observation, Participant or
Non-participant and Published or Unpublished materials (such as Census Reports,
Reports of Governmental and/or Non-Governmental Agencies, and appropriate
literature on the sociology of law) etc.
Data collection is the process of gathering and measuring information on
variables of interest, in an established systematic fashion that enables one to
answer stated research questions, test hypotheses, and evaluate outcomes. The
data collection component of research is common to all fields of study including
physical and social sciences, humanities, business, etc. While methods vary by
discipline, the emphasis on ensuring accurate and honest collection remains the
It involves identifying population which the researcher wants to make inferences
and figuring out on what data need to be asked on the basis of the research
question, theories and observable implications of those theories.
Identifying The Target Group
The target population or population in interest, is the population about which
researcher want to make inferences. Group consist of all the units such as
people, cases, countries about which we would collect data if our resources were
unlimited, and depends on our research question.
Data Validation Techniques:
Data validation technique is a process of ensuring the accuracy and quality of
the data. It is to ensure the logical consistency of input and stored data. Data
validation techniques can be divided into several types. They are:
Range Check is been used on the data which must fall into a particular range.
For example, a secondary school student is likely to be aged between 11 and 16.
The computer can be programmed only to accept numbers between 11 and 16. This is
a range check.
Format Check means were the data which follows a predefined format. Data
validation ensures that the data are in proper consistency throughout time.
For example; YYYY-MM-DD or DD-MM-YYYY are commonly used fixed format of data
Consistency Check is a type of logical check. The consistency check confirms the
data that has been entered in a logically consistent way. A consistency check
detects whether the value of two or more data items are not in contradiction.
Data's like IDs or Email addresses are unique by nature. Uniqueness check
ensures that an item is not entered multiple times into a database.
In Code check the field is selected from a valid list of values or follows
certain formatting rules.
For example: It is easier to verify that a postal code is valid by checking it
against a list of valid codes.
Data Type Check
Data type check confirms that the data entered has the correct data type.
For example: A field might only accept numeric data. Then only data containing
other characters such as letters or special symbols should be rejected by the
Common Method Bias
Common method bias can appear when both the independent and dependent variable
is captured by the same response method. While the consequences of common method
bias can be detrimental to a study's validity. Data collected from the
respondents may arise potential common method variance as false internal
consistency might be present in the data.
Common Method Bias describes the measurement error that is compounded by the
respondents who want to provide positive answers. Simplest way to test Common
Method Bias is by the use of Harman's single factor score, in which all items
are loaded into one common factor. If the total variance is less than 50%, it
suggests that Common Method Bias does not affect the data and hence the result.
The term 'pilot studies' refers to mini versions of a full-scale study (also
called 'feasibility' studies), as well as the specific pre-testing of a
particular research instrument such as a questionnaire or interview schedule.
Pilot studies are a crucial element of a good study design. Conducting a pilot
study does not guarantee success in the main study, but it does increase the
likelihood of success. Pilot studies fulfil a range of important functions and
can provide valuable insights for other researchers. There is a need for more
discussion among researchers of both the process and outcomes of pilot studies.
Sources Of Data Collection
Basically, there are two sources of data collection. They are:
- Primary Source
- Secondary Source
Primary source is where the researcher gets the information which is required
directly from the respondents.
Some of the primary source of data collection are:
Interviewing, as a research method, typically involves you, as researcher,
asking questions, and hopefully, receiving answers from the people you are
interviewing. There are many types of interviews,
Fully structured interview:
has predetermined questions with fixed wording,
usually in a pre-set order. The use of mainly open-response questions is the
only essential difference from an interview-based survey questionnaire.
It has predetermined questions, but the order can be
modified based upon the interviewer's perception of what seems most appropriate
Question wording can be changed and explanations given; particular questions
which seem inappropriate with a particular interviewee can be omitted, or
additional ones included.
The interviewer has a general area of interest and
concern, but lets the conversation develop within this area. It can be
completely informal. Here, both the questions asked and responses given are left
flexible and open. Semi structured and unstructured interviews are widely used
in flexible, qualitative designs and they are referred as qualitative research
Questions to avoid in interview:
- Long questions- The interviewee may remember only part of the question, and
respond to that part.
- Double barrelled (multiple-barrelled) questions.
- Questions involving Jargon- Generally you should avoid questions containing
words likely to be unfamiliar to the target audience.
- Leading questions-Modify such questions if you realize that they are leading in
a particular direction.
- Biased questions- provided that you are alert to the possibility of bias, it is
not difficult to write unbiased questions.
It refers to a set of questions that a lot of people are asked as way of getting
information about what people think or do generally. The questions are usually
systematically written and printed on papers. Most kinds of researches including
legal research method involve the use of a questionnaire as the basic approach
to fact or information collection. Most surveys also involve use of a
questionnaire as the basic approach to survey data collection.
Three major ways in which questionnaire is administered:
Self-completion-Respondents fill in the answers by themselves. The questionnaire
is often sent out by post, permitting large samples to be reached with
relatively little extra efforts.
An interviewer asks the questions in the presence of the
respondent, and also completes the questionnaire.
The interviewer contacts respondents by phone, asks the
questions and records the responses.
Survey may be questionnaire based, interview based or observation based. Survey
means questioning individuals on a topic and describing their responses.
Survey method can be broadly divided into three categories:
- Mail survey
Mail survey means a written survey that is self-administered.
- Telephone survey
Telephone survey means a survey that is conducted by telephone in which the
questions are read to the respondents and answered by them.
- Personal interview
Personal interviews are face-to-face interviews to the respondent. Varies from
person to person.
Technique is to watch what they do, to record this in some way and then to
describe, analyse and interpret what we have observed. It is commonly used in an
exploratory phase, typically in an unstructured form, to seek to find out what
is going on a situation as a precursor to subsequent testing out of the insights
Observation can also be used as a supportive or supplementary method
to collect data that may complement or set in perspective data obtained by other
means. Suppose that the main effort in a particular study is devoted to a series
of interviews, observation might then be used to validate or corroborate the
messages obtained in the interviews.
Two popular types are participant observation and non-participant observation.
Participant observation is an essentially qualitative style which has been used
in variety of disciplines including in the legal profession. Participant
observation is a widely used method in flexible designs, particularly those
which follow an ethnographic approach. Non-participant observation can be
structured but is more usually unstructured and informal.
Observation as a data collection method can be structured or unstructured.
Structured or systematic observation, data collection is conducted using
specific variables and according to a pre-defined schedule. Unstructured
observation, is conducted in an open and free manner in a sense that there would
be no pre-determined variables or objectives.
- Participant observation: A key feature of participant observation is that the observer seeks to become some kind of a member of the observed group. This involves not only a physical presence and a sharing of life experiences but also entry into their social and 'symbolic' world through learning their social conventions and habits, their use of language and non-verbal communication, and so on. The observer also has to establish some role within the group. The primary data are the interpretations by the observer of what is going on around him. The observer is the research instrument, and hence great sensitivity and personal skills are called for if worthwhile data are to be collected. Participant observation might be useful in a small project: with small groups, for events or processes that take a reasonably short time, for frequent events, for activities that are accessible to observers, when your prime motivation is to find out what is going on, and when you are not short of time.
- The complete participant: The complete participant role involves the observer concealing that she is an observer, acting as naturally as possible and seeking to become a full member of the group.
- The participant as observer: It is a feasible alternative to have the participant as observer role. The fact that the observer is an observer is made clear to the group from the start. The observer then tries to establish close relationships with members of the group. This stance means that as well as observing through participating in activities, the observer can ask members to explain various aspects of what is going on. It is important to gain the trust of key members of the group. It would appear that this role would have more of a disturbing effect on the phenomena observed than that of the complete participant, and several experienced participant observers have documented this. However, one effect may be that members of the group are led to more analytical reflection about processes and other aspects of the group's functioning.
- The marginal participant: In some situations, it may be feasible and advantageous to have a lower degree of participation than that envisaged in the preceding sections. This can be done by adopting the role of a larger passive, though completely accepted, participant - a passenger in a train or bus, or a member of the audience at a concert or sports meeting.
- The observer as participant: This is someone who takes no part in the activity but whose status as a researcher is known to the participants. Such a state is aspired to by many researchers using systematic observation. However, it is questionable whether anyone who is known to be a researcher can be said not to take part in the activity - in the sense that their role is now one of the roles within the larger group that includes the researcher.
A focus group is a small set of six to ten people who usually share common
characteristics such as age, background, geography, etc. The set comes together
to discuss a predetermined topic. A focus group is a part of marketing research
technique. A focus group is useful in analysing a topic or getting an opinion on
a predetermined topic for research.
The information collected is used in making
refinements to the product. With the help of focus groups, a company can collect
information pertaining to what different groups or a set of people feel about a
particular topic or a product.
Feedback is collected from a set of people in case the company plans to change
the appearance or the quality of a product and it wants to get the first
reaction from different sets of people as to what they think, focus groups help
the company to do just that. Based on the responses, the company can quickly
analyse if people in the group like the refined product or not.
They could also
track the consumption patterns by asking them if they would increase the
consumption once the refined product is introduced in the market. Focus groups
can vary in size, depending on the issue, problem or the product that needs to
The term "Ethnos" means People, race, or cultural group and 'Graphe' means
writing; so, the literary meaning of ethnography is "writing culture".
Ethnographies are an in-depth study of the way of life of a group of people in
their natural setting. They are typically very in-depth and long-term and aim
for a full (or 'thick'), multi-layered account of the culture of a group of
Participant Observation is typically the main method used, but
researchers will use all other methods available to get even richer data � such
as interviews and analysis of any documents associated with that culture.
In terms of data gathering, ethnographers directly enter into the field, for
understanding people's daily life including behaviour, relationships, social
action, art, and other cultural values which took a long period. Initial
features of an ethnographic research study:
- Ethnographic studies require an empirical approach. Researchers need to engage empirical observation for studying social phenomena. So, the investigators engaged in real-life situations and collected data through methods in social research.
- Need to remain open; ethnography promotes an open method of communication with those involved in the research rather than making plans for research observation. The researchers observe and interact with research participants in their real-life settings rather than a laboratory experiment.
- Facts obtained through observations from the field need to be linked to historical and cultural matters. Empirical observations can be used to interlink between facts for the formation of general laws.
Visual ethnography includes the creation and examination of still photographs
and movies, the investigation of craftsmanship and material culture, and the
study of signals or gestures, facial expression as well as behaviour and
interaction. An ethnographic examination is in like manner interweaved with
visual pictures and sociocultural representation.
Ethnography pictures are as
inescapable as sounds, smells, tastes, words, or some other part of culture and
society. After ethnographic fieldwork, when ethnographers produce photos or
video as a research product, that is turned out to be an important part of the
It is one of the cores used methods in qualitative research. In this method, the
researcher asks people to talk about their overall life experiences and memories
or to discuss specific experiences and events in a narrative form. This method
of qualitative interview demanding well-prepared questions and recording the
respondent responses with either audio or video equipment.
Oral history gives
more importance to the participant's perspectives. If you trace out the history
of 'oral history' methods, it has a relation with anthropological traditions. It
is used to access the experiential knowledge of respondents directly from the
field. Many cultural anthropologists used this method to understand real and
past cultural aspects, including the different social organizations, of the
It involves researching a single case or example of something using multiple
methods � for example researching one school or factory. An ethnography is
simply a very in-depth case study. In social research, an approach emphasizing
the study of social units as totalities, in contrast to the type of approach
where aspects of social units are studied more or less in isolation from
another, is called case study. Case study is a holistic approach.
Perhaps it is
the only method in social research involving the holistic approach. Whatever be
the unit selected it is studied in its entirety. The method involves a thorough
investigation and intensive analysis of the unit with view to preserving its
Unlike the quantitative methods, the case study method aims
at maintaining the wholeness of the case. A case is non comparable and yields
non additive and non-quantitative data. Such a case is selected for study
because the usual quantitative methods fail to take into account the unique
features of the case that are extremely important. The case unit may be
described by an indefinite number of facts.
These facts may be obtained from
many diverse sources such as documents, life histories, interviewing the
individuals, from participant observation, etc. Expressed in other words, the
data collection techniques and tools employed in case study include
interviewing, interview, schedule questionnaire, documents, life history records
Secondary Source Of Data
Secondary source of information includes all types of published and unpublished,
public or private documents and other such types of information. Data or
information acquired indirectly by researchers. Secondary data means that might
be already available, these data are already been gathered and compiled by
Some examples of published data:
Documents And Records
- Various publication of the central, state or local government
- Various publications of a foreign government or international bodies and their subsidiary organization
- Technical and trade journals
- Books, magazines, and newspapers
- Reports and publications of various associations connected with business and industry, banks, Stock Exchange
- Reports prepared by research scholars, universities, economist, etc in different fields
- Public records and statistics, historical documents, and other sources of published information.
Document analysis is a method of data collection which involves analysis of
content from written documents in order to make certain deductions based on the
study parameters. Research records refer to any type of records or materials
that document the research effort. These can be electronic or hard copy of
notebooks, videos, computer databases, audio or digital records etc. This can be
an inexpensive way to gather information & consists of examining existing data.
Data is a collection of facts, figures, objects, symbols, and events gathered
from different sources. Primary data is collected from the first-hand experience
and is not used in the past. The data gathered by primary data collection
methods are specific to the research's motive and highly accurate.
Primary data refers to the first hand data gathered by the researcher himself.
Secondary data means data collected by someone else earlier. The secondary data
collection methods, too, can involve both quantitative and qualitative
techniques. Secondary data is easily available and hence, less time-consuming
and expensive as compared to the primary data. However, with the secondary data
collection methods, the authenticity of the data gathered cannot be verified.
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