The first thing to be clear about in looking at research strategies for a law dissertation is what it is not. A law dissertation is not a social science dissertation. The corollary of this is that there should be no place in a law dissertation for primary social science research. Tutors frequently have students who, as part of their dissertation research, say that they want to do a questionnaire, either to distribute within the student cohort or to send to people with a particular interest in the area. Alternatively, they might say that they want to interview people to find their views on the topic area. This is a very bad idea. Firstly, law students have rarely studied social science research methods and so they do not have the expertise to design a questionnaire or structured interview or to analyse the results. Secondly, what use would it be? A student cohort is rarely one which would give statistically significant results, so would be of little use. If the aim is to send it to people outside the university, what incentive would they have to complete it and return it? If the answer is none, as it usually is, they probably will not do so. There is a third reason not to do such research. Generally, law dissertations do not require individual ethical approval before they are undertaken, as they should have group approval based on the dissertation module specification. If you choose to do a survey, both the questionnaire and the sampling method would need individual approval and this would require you to comply with your university’s ethics processes, which are normally time-consuming and bureaucratic. Satisfying them would take time which should be better used doing what you should be doing.
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