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There are two primary dissertation research methods: Qualitative and quantitative.Qualitative research focuses on examining the topic via cultural phenomena, human behavior, or belief systems.
Such research does however presuppose some knowledge of the past.
As can be seen, both qualitative and quantitative methodologies can be adopted in a legal dissertation.
This type of research uses interviews, open-ended questions, or focus groups to gain insight into people’s thoughts and beliefs around certain behaviors and systems.
Ayn O’Reilly, Ph D, core research faculty in the School of Public Service Leadership (PSL) and co-chair of the PSL Scientific Merit Review Committee, notes there are several approaches to qualitative inquiry.
It can be used is areas for potential reform as diverse as the impact of technology on conveyancing or the introduction of no-fault compensation schemes.
A comparative historical approach could be utilised within the human rights field, considering for example changing attitudes to slavery in social and economic history.
Such an approach may well appeal to the ‘traditional’ law student although it does inevitably mean that that moral and political discussions will always be marginal to the dissertation, appearing perhaps only in the conclusion.
If you are pushed for time or have limited financial resources this may be the methodology for you in that the majority of your research can be undertaken either on-line using a reputable legal database or from a good quality law library.
One immediate problem of this approach is in providing a single and conclusive definition of the nature and scope of the study, a problem which arises out of the sheer volume of studies that have been undertaken within this tradition.
Students opting for this approach need to be alive to the possibility of ethical issues arising such as informed consent and confidentiality.