Legal Research – How to Find & Understand the Law

For the novice researcher, planning, implementing and reporting on a research project can be daunting tasks. This article presents a three-month framework which could be used to bring a small research project to an appropriate conclusion.

Month One

During the first month create a topic or Research Methods identify the research problem to be explored. The wording of topics will change a number of times especially when one becomes familiar with the literature in the area and with continued personal reflection. Having created a topic or identified the problem, there will be the need to justify the research. To help in this matter ask the following question, ‘Can the solution to the problem be found in a book, research article or via online sources?’ This question is important because there is no need to engage in a research project if the problem has been adequately addressed in an article, book or online source.

At this stage, determine who the participants will be and the best way to invite them to participate; consider ethical issues; research techniques and procedure; formulate research questions and inform key stakeholders of research plan.

The process of reviewing the literature by engaging in personal search of various data-bases, websites and periodicals and writing a review should begin. Employing the help of the library staff in locating books and doing further online searches should also occur. It is recommended that library staff is given sufficient time to properly engage in the process. Invite participants and inform them of dates and times they would be needed and type(s) of data collection method(s) to be used.

Month Two

The main activities for month two is the collection of data. This will include the selection or construction and piloting of the collection instrument(s). During this second month remind participants of their commitment to participate. There is however the need for great flexibility. This is especially important if a face-to-face interview is required for there may be the need to reschedule such an event for a participant who is unable to make the agreed date and time. Other activities during this month may include: booking and setting up a room for interviews; executing the data collection process; starting the analysis of the data and continuing with the review of literature.

Month Three

The writing of the final report is the central activity for this month. This can take any style and format. If however the intent is to have the report published in a journal it may be prudent to use the intended journal’s writing style and format. The report should be proofread and should be ‘internally reviewed’ by a colleague or a number of colleagues before forwarding the final daft to the journal’s editor(s). If appropriate, present a copy of the report to key stakeholders and share findings at an academic conference.