Emerging Paradigms and Challenges in Interdisciplinary Legal research

1. Abstract-

Though no singe definition can aptly describe the true connotation of ‘Inter Disciplinary Research’ it can be safely described to be that mode of research that converges information, data, techniques, tools, perspectives, concepts, and/or theories from two or more disciplines or bodies of specialized knowledge to advance fundamental understanding or to solve problems whose solutions are beyond the scope of a single discipline or field of research practice. Since law is nothing but a social engineering it is incumbent that the researchers focus on the date which is relevant to legal issues but not necessarily a provision of law. Hence this paper endevours to dig into the obstacles an inter disciplinary research faces by adopting basically few widely accepted methodologies like traditional mode of research (judicial pronouncements, statutory provisions), more rigorous scientific methods ( Collation of data beyond the discipline), delving into non legal fields to gauge its applicability in legal fields and mixing the both fields etc. This is important to properly gauge both the internal and external effectiveness of a legal system or its norms in changing scenario while interpreting the applicability or efficacy or need of existence or exclusion of a legal provision keeping in mind the human psychology, political and economic changes, popular perceptions and faith in law and its implementation.

The presence of inter disciplinary research is very widely felt and meticulously put into force is not in only the realm of traditional legal academic research by academicians but in promulgation of law by Legislators and its interpretation by Courts is Law while applying the same in ever changing social perspective in which the advocates also plays a pivotal role in assisting the court to come to the right conclusion by putting by rival contentions. Interdisciplinary research is such mode of research by teams or individuals that integrates information, data, techniques, tools, perspectives, concepts, and/or theories from two or more disciplines or bodies of specialized knowledge to advance fundamental understanding or to solve problems whose solutions are beyond the scope of a single discipline or field of research practice.

Brief Introduction-

In cases with no clear or obvious resolutions are cases in which the societal effects of the legal ruling are hardest to determine. So these are the cases that compel the most rigorous interdisciplinary study.

For making advancement in the science of law, one needs to go into the ‘underlying principles or reasons of the law’. These activities warrant a systematic approach. An approach becomes systematic when a researcher follows scientific method. Generally, law is influenced by the prevailing social values and ethos. Most of the times, law also attempts to mould or change the existing social values and attitudes. Such a complex nature of law and its operation require systematic approach to the ‘understanding’ of ‘law’ and its ‘operational facets’.

The application of inter disciplinary in commonly traced in a legislative action which is the result of a very painstaking process of fact-finding effort relevant to the possible alternative courses of action and reviewing each alternative so as to arrive at a tentative view before coming to the conclusion to promulgate or amend a law. It also take help of expert advice from interested specialists. groups and forums in the society, is also in vogue.

2. Research Methodology-

Methodology is a scientific discipline which pertains to defining and systematizing methods, that is, appropriate ways of discerning the subject of investigation. Accordingly, legal methodology is a scientific discipline dealing with methods of discerning law and legal phenomena.

While preparing this paper I adopted the mixture of types or methods which is related to some abstract idea(s) or theory to develop new concepts or to re-interpret the existing one by analysis of the existing conceptual framework of and about law, Use of supporting disciplines • legal history; • legal sociology; • legal anthropology; • legal psychology; • law and biology; and • law and economics Helped a lot.

The tools used in the research were Use of Library , Use of Modern Technology/ Computer Assisted Research for Primary and Secondary Sources apart from Literature Review ,Questionnaire · Interview · Case study · Sampling etc ·

So these Methods resorted to here intends to acquaint the students of law and academicians with scientific methods of inquiry into law. It also intends to make them familiar with nature, scope, and significance of legal research. In addition, it endeavors to make them aware of role of legal research in the development of law and legal institutions, in particular in the context of socio-economic development of the country in general.


A. As per jurists there is various ways to carry out such research like interdisciplinarity: top-down interdisciplinarity and bottom-up interdisciplinarity (Folkers, 2010, 33). In the former, the researcher formulates a hypothesis and brings together co-operation partners in order to test the hypothesis from a different standpoint. In the latter case, representatives of a wide variety of disciplines come together in order to develop a common hypothesis and to decide on adequate procedures to test it.

B. As per author Mathias M. Siems there are one basic type of interdisciplinary legal research and 3 advanced type of such research.

C. As per another author there are two different routes to interdisciplinary research: unilateral and multilateral. The unilateral method implies that a legal researcher aims at carrying out the research, starting from a research question based in the legal arena, but making use of the data from another discipline.25 Multilateral research is interdisciplinary research where from the start at least two experts from different disciplines work together.

Which of these types a legal researcher chooses depends on the nature of the problem and his or her own skills and preferences. There are also specific benefits and pitfalls in conducting each of these types of interdisciplinary legal research. A general difficulty can be the lack of knowledge and skills to fully understand the methodologies of other academic disciplines.


A. General

i. Though it is very much fair to admit that law often takes into its fold nothing but human conduct in various complex situations and contingencies ,more so, in criminal jurisprudence the primacy of legal aspects can never be lost sight of while considering other scientific approaches including social engineering which may be cited below-

ii.Failure to determine the actual focus of research due to vagueness or lack of clarity is very common place in inter-disciplinary legal research.

iii. Since the favour and tenor of every discipline is different from each other a legal researcher often face with hurdle in appreciating the actual purport of the language used in other discipline. The use of jargon widely used is different fields pose a great hurdle in inter-disciplinary legal research.

iv. The research technique and tools used in respective fields of study also differs to a great extent. The model used in scientific researches is more precise and object oriented that the legal research.

v.The individual attempt to carry out legal research without involving a temp from different walks of disciplines also creates problem form carrying out an effective inter-disciplinary legal research. The expertise of people from different discipline must be utilized to shift the proper information from general jumble of facts which may not fit into the topic of research work.

vi. While carrying out unilateral interdisciplinary research one may face with typical problem like: (a) choosing the right path to carry out the research work and understanding another discipline,(b) not understanding the other discipline or choosing a wrong discipline altogether,(c) not comprehending the measure to integrate empirical result with legal discipline.

vii. Lack of imparting legal research technique in law schools is another hindrance in carrying out inter disciplinary legal research. In the absence of any methodical initiation in the techniques of research, the researcher depends upon trial and error method and he relies upon the existing legal research exercises as model.

B. The last but the least foremost obstacle encountered by the researcher while making this multi-dimensional research work is incorporation or integration of the inter disciplinary research field works. The infusion of non-legal work with the legal doctrine is most difficult task.

C. Obstacles in the context of Sociology-

Though sociology of law and interdisciplinary research may have great potentialities yet many pitfalls can be watched like.

i. Firstly, sociological research is extremely time consuming and costly. It has been stated: "Socio-legal research is more expensive, it calls for additional training; and it entails great doctrinal and non doctrinal legal research commitments of time and energy to produce meaningful results.

ii. Secondly, law-sociology research needs a strong base of doctrinal research. In the words of Upendra Baxi rightly points out that "law-society research cannot thrive on a weak infra-structure base of doctrinal type analyses of the authoritative legal materials.

iii. Thirdly, sociological research may help in building general theories, but it seems inadequate where the problems are to be solved and the law is to be developed from case to case. For instance, as a matter of general theory it is axiomatic that governmental powers need to be checked as "power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely", but too much check may result in governmental ineffectiveness.

iv. Fourthly, the function of law in society is not only to follow or adapt itself to public opinion (assuming that it is possible to know correct public opinion) but also to give a lead and mould public opinion. When the law should follow one course or the other may not always be answered on the basis of sociological data but on the basis of one 's maturity of judgment, intuition, and experience,.

v. Fifthly, on account of complicated settings (and this particularly applies to economic data) and variable factors, we may again be thrown back to our own pre-conceived ideas, prejudices and feelings in furnishing solutions to certain problems.

vi. Sixthly, though law-sociology research is of recent origin, yet it is common knowledge that even in the United States, where this kind of work has been done mostly, such researches have yet to show their potentiality in terms of translating the findings into legal propositions and norms. 

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Devajyoti Barman 
on 16 October 2017
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