This essay is the introductory chapter of a book about research methods in the field of law and society (Halliday, S. and Schmidt, P., Conducting Law and Society Research: Reflections on Methods and Practices, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009). Through interviews with many of the most noteworthy authors of law and society, Conducting Law and Society Research takes readers behind the scenes of empirical scholarship, showing the messy reality of the research process. The challenges and the uncertainties, so often missing from research methods textbooks, are revealed in candid detail. The accessible and revealing conversations about the lived reality of classic projects will be a source of encouragement and inspiration to those embarking on empirical research, ranging across the full array of disciplines that contribute to law and society. In this introductory essay, we argue for greater candor in discussing the messiness of empirical research methods, particularly in the field of law and society which has for many years explored the gap between rules and reality. We also examine the role which luck (both good and bad) plays in empirical research. Ultimately, we suggest that narratives of the research process such as the conversations contained in the book are a necessary complement to research methods textbooks. They reveal, in powerful ways, that “good research” displays not an absence of problems but the care taken in negotiating them.
Date of this Version
Patrick Schmidt and Simon Halliday, "Beyond Methods - Law & Society in Action" (September 2009). University of New South Wales Faculty of Law Research Series 2009. Working Paper 36.