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Mapping Legal Research

Cambridge Law Journal, 2012, 71(3): 651-676

35 Pages Posted: 29 Nov 2012 Last revised: 5 Dec 2012

Mathias M. Siems

Durham University - Durham Law School; University of Cambridge - Centre for Business Research

Daithi Mac Sithigh

Queen's University Belfast - School of Law

Date Written: November 1, 2012


This article aims to map the position of academic legal research, using a distinction between “law as a practical discipline”, “law as humanities” and “law as social sciences” as a conceptual framework. Having explained this framework, we address both the “macro” and “micro” level of legal research in the UK. For this purpose, we have collected information on the position of all law schools within the structure of their respective universities. We also introduce “ternary plots” as a new way of explaining individual research preferences. Our general result is that all three categories play a role within the context of UK legal academia, though the relationship between the “macro” and the “micro” level is not always straight-forward. We also provide comparisons with the US and Germany and show that in all three countries law as an academic tradition has been constantly evolving, raising questions such as whether the UK could or should move further to a social science model already dominant in the US.

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Keywords: legal research, academic disciplines, research methods, interdisciplinarity, doctrinal legal research, legal practice, humanities, social sciences

JEL Classification: I23, I28, K00, K40

Suggested Citation

Siems, Mathias M. and Mac Sithigh, Daithi, Mapping Legal Research (November 1, 2012). Cambridge Law Journal, 2012, 71(3): 651-676. Available at SSRN:

Mathias M. Siems (Contact Author)

Durham University - Durham Law School ( email )

Stockton Road
Durham, County Durham DH1 3LE
United Kingdom


University of Cambridge - Centre for Business Research ( email )

Top Floor, Judge Business School Building
Trumpington Street
Cambridge, CB2 1AG
United Kingdom


Daithi Mac Sithigh

Queen's University Belfast - School of Law ( email )

School of Law
Belfast BT7 1NN, BT7 1NN

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