Legal Research -Meaning, 3 types, and importance of conducting legal research

What is Legal Research?

Simply put, conducting Legal research can be regarded as the art of conducting a systematic investigation or study of legal materials in order to provide in-depth solutions and evidence regarding a particular subject matter. Similarly, Legal research can be regarded as the process of sorting and identifying information and/or sources in the bid to support particular legal hypotheses. Legal research is used by Law students and Lawyers during the process legal writing process.

What are the types of Legal Research?

There are numerous types of legal research, all of which can be applied in different forms of legal writing, however, the core types of legal research include;

  • Doctrinal Legal Research:

This is simply regarded as the study of constitutional or statutory principles. In other words, the aim of this research is to investigate and/or pinpoint the particular rules regarding a particular subject matter or study. Alternatively, Doctrinal Legal Research can be regarded as library-based research aimed at resolving factual or legal issues by applying legal precedents and laws regarding that particular issue or matter.

  • Non-Doctrinal Legal Research:

This is non-library-related research which mainly deals with the socio-legal aspect of law. In other words, non-doctrinal research can be regarded as a form of research that deals with pressing issues directly revolving around law in society. This form of research employs methods from other disciplines, thus, non-doctrinal research can either be qualitative or quantitative.

  • Comparative Legal Research:

As its name implies, this form of research involves comparing and contrasting different types of legal provisions, legislation, non-regional laws and so on. Similarly, comparative legal research can be regarded as a form of study which involves the comparative examination of human activities or experiences which take place in different legal systems.

  • Other forms of legal research include; empirical legal research, quantitative legal research, qualitative legal research, conceptual legal research, pure legal research, applied legal research, descriptive legal research, analytical legal research and so on.
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Important tips to note when conducting legal research

Like all areas in the legal profession, legal research involves a careful and meticulous study of the subject matter, the law and its possible result. This is so because, during the legal writing process, it automatically becomes the duty of the lawyer or legal writer to provide a step-by-step procedure or process revolving around the subject matter or topic of study.

Similarly, these procedures with being backed up with adequate legal or statutory provisions, judicial precedents and court judgement. Oftentimes, law students underestimate the vitality and core demands of legal research. This could lead to dire consequences like inadequate statutory provisions, lack of statutory evidence, poor conclusions and so on. Thus, the important tips to note and apply when carrying out legal research includes:

  • Figure out the form of legal research relating to the legal assignment or write-up and strictly adhere to it. It was established in this article that there are different forms of legal research, all of which demand and apply to different areas in law. Hence, the first important step to take during legal research is to identify the type of legal research and strictly adhere to it. For instance, assignments revolving around doctrinal research demand the consultation of law books like the constitution and so on, which may provide the area in which a particular law should be applied, its exceptions and the reasons for such application. This is very different from non-doctrinal legal research which demands the consultation of both law and non-law related books, interviews, surveys and questionnaires in order to come to a fitful conclusion.
  • Create an outline which revolves around legal provisions, core points or theories relating to the subject matter as well as a conclusion and research accordingly. In all forms of research, the importance of an outline can never be overemphasized. It gives writers an organized front in terms of researching and during the entire writing process. In this regard, legal writers are advised to create an outline and research according to the points provided in that particular outline instead of researching haphazardly. This is simply a way of singling out the key points in the research and investigating them properly. This will equip the writer with a deeper understanding of the subject matter. When the writer understands the points in the research deeply, he/she will be able to break it down properly for the reader(s), this is exactly what legal writing is all about.
  • Pay attention to, and adhere to the stipulated time frame. As fore mentioned in this article, legal research requires the in-depth investigation or study of points revolving around the subject matter. Similarly, the law as a field of study is quite bulky thus, it is almost impossible for a student to decipher and provide core points relating to issues in just one sitting since there is always a lot to read and/or research about. Hence, when students are equipped with a legal assignment, it is important to start the entire process on time. This includes the creation of the outline, the provision and individual investigations of key points and the conclusion. This way, the student will be able to finish early, cross-check and edit properly before submission. The bottom line is when given a legal assignment, before choosing to procrastinate, consider the demands of the research and the time frame first.
  • Consult both primary and secondary materials during the course of the legal research. In the legal field, primary resources or materials are simply statutes and case laws such as The Evidence Act(statutes) and Donoghue V Stevenson(case laws). Similarly, secondary resources or materials are articles, legal and non-legal textbooks, dictionaries, class notes and so on. In all forms of legal research and writing, it is the duty of the lawyer, legal writer or law student to back up theories and conclusions with statutory provisions and case laws which are or were in existence at one point in time or another. This implies that, before a legal writer creates a conclusion regarding a matter, there must be adequate or sufficient primary and secondary sources to back it up. Thus, in order for this to happen, the writer ought to consult both sources during the course of the legal research.
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