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SUMMARY

  • 1. Several research methods can be applied in studying law in society, and more than a single method is usually involved in an investigation. The methods of sociological research are the historical, observational, experimental, and survey studies.
  • 2. Historical analysis relies on secondary sources collected for purposes other than the researcher's intentions. Thus, a notable difficulty of the historical method lies in the limited accuracy and thoroughness of the documents and materials involved.
  • 3. Observational methods use either human observers or mechanical devices and procedures to elicit responses directly from the subjects by questioning. Many of the observational techniques are used in laboratory situations as, for example, the studies on jury deliberations. Observational methods are also used by sociologists in field settings, which involve direct contact with subjects and take place in relatively natural social situations.
  • 4. Experimental methods are used to test causal relationships, either in a laboratory or in a field setting. Experiments in sociology face certain difficulties such as ethical, legal, and financial considerations. Although there have been several large-scale experiments dealing with law and a large number of laboratory studies, questions of generalizability of results persist.
  • 5. Survey methods are widely used in sociological research, and they often involve a random sample of the population under study. Survey studies tend to be larger than is typically the case in observational and experimental studies, and data may be collected at one point in time or over time.
  • 6. Sociology, like all sciences, may be either pure or applied. Pure sociology searches for new knowledge, whereas applied sociology tries to apply sociological knowledge to practical problems. Although this distinction is often used in the sociological literature, sociology is both a pure and an applied science.
  • 7. There is an increasing involvement of sociologists in evaluation research and impact studies. The object of evaluation research is to determine how successful a particular change effort is in achieving its goals. Evaluation research allows policy-makers to determine the effectiveness of a program, whether it should be continued or phased out, and what in-course adjustments, if any, are needed to make it more effective.
 
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