Research Methods 2006 and 2007


research methods 2010 and 2011

This is the web page for the course. There are links, documents and sources that will be of interest to you. You can contact Professor Reza Banakar at, and Professor John Flood at

Documents are either in MS Word format or PDF files. To download the free Adobe Acrobat Reader software, click logo Link to Adobe Reader

This Thursday, 25 November, we are meeting at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, Russell Square, at 5.50pm for David Sugarman's lecture on Pinochet. Please click on Pinochet for further details. This means we are NOT meeting in our normal place this week.

Required Text

The textbooks for this course are and are available at the CAVENDISH campus bookstore:

Nicholas Walliman, Your Research Project: A Step-by-Step Guide for the First-Time Researcher. 2nd edition, Sage, 2005, paperback.

Reza banakar and Max Travers (eds), Theory and Method in Socio-Legal Research.Hart Publishing, 2005, paperback.

Course Assignment

This is the course assignment. Note the hand in date for the final assignment is 10 January 2011.

Timetable for Semester 1 2010

Here the course timetable.

Here is the folder with the Research Questions inside (NB. it is a zip file): 2009 RQs

Here is the folder with the Literature Reviews with comments inside (NB. it is a zip file): 2009 LRs

Previous Lecture Notes

Dr Banakar's lecture notes are available for download:

Session 1 (Introduction)

Session 2 (Research Design)

Session 3 (Legal Methods)

Examples of Student Research Proposals

Three examples are presented: excellent, average, and poor.

Help With Writing

I have mentioned that writing is very important and that the assignment is based on your written submission. If you want to improve your writing skills, the university can offer help through the Academic Writing Centre. Check the website for the range of help they can offer. The tab, "Self-Study", is useful because it includes such items as "Common academic vocabulary", "Report writing", "Sample essays" (with before and after improvements), and checklists.

The Academic Writing Centre has materials for using sources and plagiarism. 

Help With Referencing

In the last class we discussed two forms of referencing: the author-date system and the footnote system. You can use either but not both together. Here are guides to their use:

1. Author-date or the Harvard system 

2. Footnote or in-text numbering

Referencing your work properly is important for a number of reasons: to trace your intellectual journey; to advise your readers of what you have used; and to avoid plagiarism. Here is a helpful tool called RefWorks.

Why One is Not Enough

This is a useful trick of the trade to help you with the practical aspects of writing both your proposal and the dissertation when you come to do it:

"If you really care about the results, there some basic steps you should take as you work through the writing process.

Dr. David R. Williams cautions against trying to write your paper in one draft "unless it is already 3:00 a.m. of the morning the paper is due and you are so far gone that you don't care what grade you get as long as the assignment is accepted." The first draft, he goes on to explain, "is always just a rough sketch of possibilities."

In his book Sin Boldly!: Dr. Dave's Guide to Writing the College Paper (Cambridge, MA: Perseus, 2000), 6, Williams suggests this four-step approach to writing: The very act of writing can itself be liberating. The rough first draft may well be nothing more than a page or two of hastily scribbled impressions. If you have any interest or curiosity at all, whether negative or positive, about a specific character or phrase or event, begin describing it. You will be amazed how soon ideas begin to flow. But under no circumstances should you think of this first effort as any more than the jotting down of rough preliminary notes.

If the first draft, then, is barely comprehensible, the second draft is your best working paper. This is written once you have a pretty good idea of what you want to do. It is the skeleton of what will become your final paper. It is also the hardest one to write. Do not worry here about perfection, for this is also the draft that you next must comb over carefully to correct logic and organization, to note where better evidence is called for or has been left out, or where the argument has wandered off the path. The third draft then comes close to being your finished paper, but this is the copy that needs to be examined closely for typos, grammatical mistakes, misspellings, and other last-minute problems.

Ideally, then, your fourth draft should be your final paper. Okay, laugh, but at least you've been told."

Scientific Method

Here you will find the Scientific Method notes and various useful links on the topic

Research Topics and Questions

This is the start of the research enterprise. Get this right and everything else falls into place.

These are the examples of research questions submitted by the 2009 class. Ponder.

Examples from 2010 Semester 1  class with my comments.

How a research presentation is done. Professor David Sugarman's lecture on Pinochet at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, 25 November 2010.

Research Design

How is the research project going to be constructed? Are you concerned about the effects of a change in the law (ie, a before and after study)? Are you interested in people's perceptions of traffic laws (ie, a cross-sectional study)? In this folder there are materials that help you design your research project.This is how to start constructing your research project.

In my discussion of Darwin's scientific method, I referred to his research during the voyage of the Beagle around the world. All of Charles Darwin's writings are now being put online and you can read them at "The Complete Works of Charles Darwin Online".

Research Support at Westminster

This page on the University of Westminster library services intranet contains a wealth of research support sources and links and will help you enter the library.

Literature Review

Here you will find materials on how to write a literature review, examples of literature reviews, and various sources for them.

Here is an article about lawyers in China. If you read it you will see the author has a particular theoretical approach, which he hopes to use to explain his data about lawyer-client relations in China. This is his literature review: Is it successful?

In addition, I present four reviews of this paper: one, two, three, four. Each critically evaluates it in ways that you will find useful for your own literature reviews.

Legal Method

Here you will find the notes of Legal Method.

Quantitative Research

This page gives you a series of links to sources on the topic of quantitative research.

One of the most innovative uses of quanatitative methods has been by the supermarket chain, Tesco. In this article, Dunnhumby, the company that created the Tesco Clubcard shows how much information they were able to extract from customers' spending habits, from when they received a bonus (because they bought champagne) to when they had a baby (purchase of disposable nappies). In fact Tescos may know more about its customers than governments do about their populations.

If you want to try doing a survey, there are free services on the internet, such as this good one called, or another such as Useful survey guidelines at

Qualitative Research

Qualitative research resources on the internet, which will guide you to many resources on this topic.

There are some useful sources at the Consortium on Qualitative Research Methods website.

"Theory: The Necessary Evil": This paper by Howard S Becker, a great qualitative sociologist, discusses the interaction of method and theory in research projects. Over the life time of a project the balance between them alters and shifts giving emphasis to one rather than the other. Among the questions discussed in the paper is the one: can knowledge be objective?

This is an interesting blog on the use of ethnography in mobile phone advertisements (ie. Nokia) and how you can get it wrong!

Doing Research on the Internet

The best place to start is Intute: Social Sciences. They describe themselves as: "We are a free online service providing you with access to the very best Web resources for education and research, evaluated and selected by a network of subject specialists."

For example, the website contains a "virtual training suite", which is a set of "free Internet tutorials to help you learn how to get the best from the Web for your education and research." There is one specifically written for lawyers by Sue Pettit, the law librarian at Bristol University.

There are extremely useful support materials, including for example a booklet on social research that provides lots of information and links for you. Also tutorials and worksheets to assist your progress.

There are regularly updated subject sections. For example, the law section had 50 links added in the last two months.

I recommend you explore this site.

Another website called, "Online! a reference guide to using internet sources", provides links to finding sources and citation guides.

Document Analysis

Here you will find the lecture notes for Document Analysis.

Comparative Method

Here you will find the lecture notes for Comparative Method.

Writing Your Dissertation

Here you will find sources on writing papers including grammar, outline resources, bibliographies, and how to quote others' work.

Here are some examples of plagiarism.

Examples of Research Proposals

This section contains at present two examples of research proposals I have written in order to obtain research funding. Both were successful.

The first was for a study of solicitor advocates--application to ACLEC, the Lord Chancellor's Advisory Committee on Legal Education and Conduct.

The second was for a study of barristers' clerks--application to the Nuffield Foundation.

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