Defining and describing what we do : doctrinal legal research

Hutchinson, Terry C. & Duncan, Nigel (2012) Defining and describing what we do : doctrinal legal research. Deakin Law Review, 17(1), pp. 83-119.

View at publisher


The practitioner lawyer of the past had little need to reflect on process. The doctrinal research methodology developed intuitively within the common law — a research method at the core of practice. There was no need to justify or classify it within a broader research framework. Modern academic lawyers are facing a different situation. At a time when competition for limited research funds is becoming more intense, and in which interdisciplinary work is highly valued and non-lawyers are involved in the assessment of grant applications, lawyer-applicants who engage in doctrinal research need to be able to explain their methodology more clearly. Doctrinal scholars need to be more open and articulate about their methods. These methods may be different in different contexts. This paper examines the doctrinal method used in legal research and its place in recent research dialogue. Some commentators are of the view that the doctrinal method is simply scholarship rather than a separate research methodology. Richard Posner even suggests that law is ‘not a field with a distinct methodology, but an amalgam of applied logic, rhetoric, economics and familiarity with a specialized vocabulary and a particular body of texts, practices, and institutions ...’.1 Therefore, academic lawyers are beginning to realise that the doctrinal research methodology needs clarification for those outside the legal profession and that a discussion about the standing and place of doctrinal research compared to other methodologies is required.

Impact and interest:

Citation counts are sourced monthly from Scopus and Web of Science® citation databases.

These databases contain citations from different subsets of available publications and different time periods and thus the citation count from each is usually different. Some works are not in either database and no count is displayed. Scopus includes citations from articles published in 1996 onwards, and Web of Science® generally from 1980 onwards.

Citations counts from the Google Scholar™ indexing service can be viewed at the linked Google Scholar™ search.

Full-text downloads:

2,613 since deposited on 15 Nov 2012
743 in the past twelve months

Full-text downloads displays the total number of times this work’s files (e.g., a PDF) have been downloaded from QUT ePrints as well as the number of downloads in the previous 365 days. The count includes downloads for all files if a work has more than one.

ID Code: 54819
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: doctrinal research, legal research, research methodologies, competitive research funding, HDR training
ISSN: 1321-3660
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > LAW AND LEGAL STUDIES (180000) > LAW (180100) > Law not elsewhere classified (180199)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Law
Current > Schools > School of Law
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2012 Deakin University. School of Law
Deposited On: 15 Nov 2012 23:42
Last Modified: 27 May 2013 07:50

Export: EndNote | Dublin Core | BibTeX

Repository Staff Only: item control page