INTRODUCTION TO SOCIO-LEGAL RESEARCH
Socio-Legal Research or Study is an event where the science of law meets that the science of society. This research requires a multidisciplinary approach to analyze and interpret the law, the legal phenomenon, the relationship between those two and also their relationship with the society in its widest sense. Socio-Legal Research has its theoretical, practical and methodological bases in the social sciences. Law is an important aspect when it comes to any social investigation. The originates and functions in a society based upon the particular needs, customs, traditions of the society and it also possesses the ability to greatly influence the social structure and functions of any society. Therefore, just as researchers are clueless and hapless if they have no knowledge of even the basics of the law, legal system and the various important if not all the law institutions, legal researchers too would be clueless and hapless and would do no justice whatsoever to legal inquiry if they do not possess the basic knowledge and are not aware of the mechanics of social research methods. In societies where the development is planned, law plays the role of a catalyst which helps and speeds the process of social reform. Thus in a dynamic or developing society a legal researcher must adopt a multi-disciplinary approach as the legal problems in the society will be largely in connection with the social, economic, political and psychological issues.
CHALLENGES IN SOCIO-LEGAL RESEARCH
In today’s world we will find that most lawyers, judges and jurists collectively agree upon the fact that legal research is a source of progression in the country, even though it may differ in qualitative terms when compared many other countries. Law, like all other disciplines can never be an isolated one. The legal rules and provisions that prevail are in relation to various real life factual situations that may potentially arise and so that those legal rules and provisions may be applied to produce certain desirable outcomes. The various intellectual disciplines such as history, science (both physical and social), religion and philosophy are related to and influence the factual situations are also connected to law.
Socio-Legal research or trans-disciplinary research does not present many problems or occupational hazards for the researchers or those who promote the research. The problem faced by the researchers and scholars arises almost exclusively from the depth of knowledge and awareness of the researcher in the field of law and all the other intellectual disciplines as well. For example, it has been observed that scholars/researchers of personal laws have used their knowledge and expertise in the same and applied it to their research and study of various religious literatures. Of course since lawyers and researchers are in the end human beings only, there is a limit to the number of disciplines one may attain expertise in.
Socio-Legal Research denotes the trans-disciplinary research combining law and other social sciences. The challenges faced by socio-legal researchers and scholars though manageable are not to be taken lightly. The most eminent problem is the fact that the number of social sciences that are recognized in today’s world are quite large and each of them have been researched upon and studied for a considerable period of time which has led to many sub-categorisations within a single discipline. For example, the study of economics is just one distinct discipline for the non-economists but in reality we find that economics has been further divided into various categories such as finance, economic theory, econometrics, economic history, economic policy, etc., and there are scholars who have specialized only or rather exclusively in one or maybe more of those sub-categories under the broad headed discipline of economics.
Research ethics as a concept per se refers to a set of standards, values and schemes that facilitates and acts as guidelines for research activity. The inherent responsibility of maintaining the ethical standards when engaging in research activities is connected to the standard of research process, the relationship between the researchers and the reason for which the research activity has been engaged with. All research ventures must be guided by the set guidelines, standards and values. A very basic problem might arise as there might be opposing views among fellow researchers regarding what can be considered ethical or not in cases where the ethical boundaries are not crystal clear in their explanations. Such conflicts among researchers might actually prove to be beneficial to the society at large as these conflicts and confusions may bring in different approaches and views regarding a particular subject with had earlier not been recognized and do not have an established opinion as of yet.
PROBLEM OF PLAGIARISM
Plagiarism is the unethical practice of presenting someone else’s work, ideas, and concepts as one’s own without acknowledging the fact that those works have been borrowed. When it comes to research work, plagiarism is a major problem irrespective of the field of research. We must keep in mind that there are diverging views when it comes to defining plagiarism and determining what makes plagiarism reprehensible. In today’s world it has become imperative for the researchers to understand what plagiarism is, its boundaries and the consequences. With the help of the internet, researchers now have access to a plethora of information compiled and publicised by other researchers and this has also increased the frequency of plagiarism prevalent nowadays. What the researchers who plagiarise do not understand is that using others’ work defeats the whole purpose of them undertaking any research project and they are also exposed to the risk of actually plagiarising work which in fact is not very authentic or well accepted apart from the risk of being caught and then facing the consequences for the same.
WHAT IS A RESEARCH PROBLEM?
“A research problem is a definite or clear expression about an area of concern, a condition to be improved upon, a difficulty to be eliminated or a troubling question that exists in scholarly literature, in theory, or within existing practice which points to a need for meaningful understanding and deliberate investigation. A research problem however does not state how to do something, offer a vague or broad proposition, or present a value question.”- Alan Byrman.
STEPS IN THE FORMULATION OF A RESEARCH PROBLEM
SPECIFY THE RESEARCH OBJECTIVES:
There must be a very clear and specific statement that defines the research objectives. This statement will help the researcher evaluate the research question that the researcher intends to find an answer to. What is also important is that the objectives defined must be manageable and not so many in number that the researcher gets confused as to which objective is more important than the other and get confused, thereby jeopardising the entire project. Having two or three main goals keeps the researcher focused.
EXPLORE THE NATURE OF THE PROBLEM:
It has been found that the number of variables and their interdependency influences the range of a research problem going from simple to complex. The variables may be directly related to each other or at times be absolutely indifferent to each other. Since the variables individually if not in pairs or groups always influence the nature of the research problem, it becomes imperative for the researcher to obtain all necessary information regarding those variables relevant to the research problem.
ANALYZING THE VARIOUS COURSES OF ACTIONS:
Any time we find a solution to any problem, one must analyze the various possible solutions. Same is the case of research problems as well. Once the objectives have been clearly defined and the nature of the problem has been explored vividly, the next step is to identify and carefully scrutinize all possible courses of actions that may be taken to solve the problem at hand. Anticipating the possible outcomes from the various courses of action makes it clear for the researcher to choose which course of action must be taken as the most suitable potential outcome can be identified.
Prof. Ranbir Singh and Others, ‘ Research methodology’ (MHRD) < http://epgp.inflibnet.ac.in/epgpdata/uploads/epgp_content/law/09._research_methodology/04._socio-legal_research/et/8151_et_et.pdf> as accessed on 24th August 2018
 B.S. Murty, ‘ Socio-Legal Research- Hurdles and Pitfalls’ (Manupatra) < http://docs.manupatra.in/newsline/articles/Upload/F9EC1626-4AAB-4797-B7BE-3ED0DC478E06.pdf> as accessed on 24th August 2018
Ragnvald Kalleberg, ‘ Guidelines for Research Ethics’ ( National Committees for Research Ethics in Norway ) < https://graduateschool.nd.edu/assets/21765/guidelinesresearchethicsinthesocialscienceslawhumanities.pdf > as accessed on 25th August 2018
Gert Helgesson and Stefan Erikson, ‘ Plagiarism in Research’ (ResearchGate) < https://www.researchgate.net/publication/263743965_Plagiarism_in_research> as accessed on 25th August 2018
ABOUT THE AUTHOR :
Raghav Kansal is a 2nd year student at National Law University Odisha. Apart from academics, his interests also like in writing/researching and mooting. Raghav also plays the centre position for the NLUO Basketball team.
In Content Picture Credit: Law Technology Today