Theory & Methods Course


Seminars take place on Mondays, 2.00 – 4.00pm, unless otherwise stated in Seminar Room A, Manor Road Building. Please click here for additional readings.

The aims of this part of the course are to:

1. Help students understand the intellectual origins of socio-legal studies and how the field relates to doctrinal scholarship and critical legal studies.

2.  Introduce students from both law and social science backgrounds to the contributions of sociology, politics, anthropology and economics to understanding the role of law in society.
3. Familiarise students with seminal and contemporary debates in socio-legal studies.

4. Enable students to situate their own research projects within the context of these debates and to identify its contribution to wider socio-legal debates.

5. Allow students to critically assess and compare key empirical methods for the collection and analysis of data.

Attendance is not optional, but is part of the methodological training required of all CSLS students. However, to ensure a sufficient link between the course and your project, you may substitute relevant sessions provided elsewhere at the University for up to two sessions in Michaelmas Term and up to three sessions in Hilary Term. This should be discussed and agreed with your supervisor, and the Centre’s Director of Graduate Studies should be informed.


Sessions in Michaelmas Term provide an introduction to key approaches and debates in contemporary socio-legal studies. The discussions will explore the nature of law, the various forms it takes, and the different roles it plays in a variety of social settings and relationships.


In these seminars we will discuss the practical techniques available to carry out socio-legal research and the ways in which they relate to the theoretical approaches you might take. We will consider which questions you can ask and what methods can help you to answer them. During the last session of the first term, CSLS students who have reached an advanced stage of their projects or who have already completed their theses will share some of their experiences with you. They will talk informally about the challenges that they faced and the bridges they had to cross.


During the first three weeks of the Trinity Term each student will be given an opportunity to make a presentation of her or his project before the Centre Fellows and other students and to receive constructive feedback. We expect the occasion to be an account of ‘work-in-progress’ in a congenial setting.  You are also expected to attend the presentations of your fellow students and participate in the discussions. They are designed to help everyone to focus their research project and to prepare for the QT assessment. 

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