Learning Objectives 279

Methods of Inquiry 280

Historical Methods 281

Observational Methods 283

Experimental Methods 285

Survey Methods 286

The Impact of Sociology on Social Policy 287

Contributions of Sociology to Policy Recommendations 288

Contributions of Sociology to Enacted Policy 290

Evaluation Research and Impact Studies 291

Dimensions of Policy Impact 293

Measuring Law’s Impact 294

Summary 296

Key Terms 296

Suggested Readings 297

References 297


  • List problems associated with doing historical research
  • Summarize the advantages and disadvantages of experimental methods
  • Explain why random samples are important in survey research
  • Discuss an example of sociology's research on public policy
  • Explain why it is difficult to measure the actual impact of law

Empirical studies provide the background for many of the generalizations and conclusions reached about law and society in the preceding chapters. This chapter discusses how sociologists and other social scientists carry out such studies by describing some of the ways they research law and the methods they use to arrive at their findings. This chapter also demonstrates the significance and applicability of sociological research to the formulation, instrumentation, and evaluation of social policy. The general comments on methodological tools for research on law are not proposed to replace the more detailed technical discussions found in books on the various methods of social research (e.g. Babbie, 2017). They are intended merely to provide an exposure to the strategies used in the study of the interplay between law and society and to highlight the methodological concerns and complexities inherent in such endeavors.

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