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Simplifying the most common confusions that a first-year law student faces regarding legal research

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Having been a part of a law school for five years now, I have come across one of the most common issue with the majority of law students in their initial years, which is that they are unable to determine “How and from where to begin the legal research?” For example, Constitutional law, Corporate law and Intellectual Property law are amongst such subjects which I believe are quite common and the majority of the law fraternity looks up to. It can be either for the purpose of Academics or other curricular activities such as mooting. But, majority of the first year law students are unable to determine from Where to start? What is the Hypothesis? What sources to refer? What can be cited? Let’s try to understand some of these questions with this blog.

“Research” means collecting and reading data available to understand the history and the further developments over the topic therefore leading the researcher to a certain conclusion with the proper analysis of data. To understand and analyze this data one has to first understand the basic methods and techniques to analyze the same. As research is an important aspect of the students, universities or say law schools have compiled their syllabus in such a form that research methodology or legal research has been kept as mandatory subject. The intention may have been to bring the positive change among the students and promote them towards the field of research, however, it has not been the case when it comes to practicality. Once it becomes the subject for evaluation, students don’t learn it as a skill but just as a means to achieve better grades.

It has been often observed that the research of a first year student goes haywire because of the lack of basic research skills. The word “research” in itself creates a sense of fear among the students, which acts as a hindrance in learning the same.

The concerned alma mater of the students should understand that to accommodate and to promote the idea of research amongst the students, there should be a proper procedure to be followed from basic approaches to higher stages of research. Keeping research methodology as a subject in one semester won’t be a fruitful exercise but it should be continued with all the following semesters as conducting research is an art and to become an artist in the field, it’s the process and the practice that makes a man perfect.

Looking into the basic requirements of research, I have tried to list down a few important points to simplify or have a more organized research.

Simplifying Research:

  • Documentation

To start with the research, try creating a document where in headings of broad research areas are identified and materials related to it can be stored in the form of hyperlink or text. It helps in keeping the work in the organized manner since you come across a lot of information while researching and it is difficult to memorize all of it.

  • Keywords:

While you get to research upon a particular topic there are certain keywords that you’ll observe on every source you explore, identify them and conduct the research based on the same.

  • Sources:

When we talk about sources, there are two kinds of sources that are majorly referred to while researching. Firstly, Primary sources which are the core or laws made by the Legislature that includes Constitutions, Treaties Statutes, etc. Secondly, there are the Secondary sources that provides information in a more detailed version and comprises of Law Review Journals, Law Reports amongst others. To have a better understanding of other examples here is the diagram stipulating the same.

  • Hypothesis:

It is constructed based on the preliminary research that you do through various sources. Basically, it’s a conclusive idea that you would like to prove through your research. However, after concluding with the extensive research you may have an opposite standing as earlier and thus your hypothesis may stand to be unproved in the end, which is definitely acceptable.

Where to end research?

Another important question that arises in the mind of the beginners in the field of law is that when to stop researching. I believe that there’s no end to researching, but one should understand and has to analyze himself that whether the data so collected through one’s research is enough to answer the goals or objective behind researching over a particular topic. If yes, then you may work on refining the information and conclude thereafter. Lastly, another way of determining the end point for any research is when you start coming across the same information researched upon, but it should be only exercised when you have exhausted all the other permutations and combinations of researching over the topic, as repetition of data would be of no use to any researcher for reaching towards the desired goal.

(Note: The views stated herein are the views of author himself except the sources cited.)


-Shubham Vijay