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'Taking up the Discourse: theory or practice'

By Terry C. Hutchinson


The nature of legal research and scholarship, its theoretical framework, empirical underpinnings and its interdisciplinary relationships has not been adequately discussed by Australian academics. Any commentary in this area has tended to concentrate on the mechanics and bibliography of the research process. Some consideration has been given to methodology in such texts, but until relatively recently, the quality and future directions of legal scholarship has been overlooked. However, Carney seems to assume that the theoretical dialogue is all-important and that incremental skills development should be a secondary consideration for postgraduate students. This is unrealistic in light of the burgeoning impact of research technology on both practitioners and academics alike, and in view of the fact that it is unlikely that postgraduate students will have completed training in advanced research techniques at undergraduate level. Overall academic goals must include skills competencies. After all, what is the fully skilled lawyer, whether practising solicitor, barrister, judge or academic, without such skills? Those graduates who are competent researchers will often find that research training and skills required for professional purposes and taught at undergraduate level, differ profoundly from that required by postgraduates. No doubt, all lawyers have need for basic skills such as updating legislation, but undergraduates and practising lawyers generally do not require the exhaustive cdverage, nor do they have the extensive organisational problems inherent in a major postgraduate research project. Therefore, while postgraduates need to stand back and consider the 'big picture' in terms of a possible theoretical basis for their research work or be given avenues of exploration for non-doctrinal perspectives, it also seems very appropriate that they are facilitated in the development of research skills to add to their already developed ‘transferable intellectual skills'. The QUT course attempts to combine both aspects — not downplaying the practice as against theory, but attempting to strike a balance

Topics: 180119 Law and Society
Publisher: Queensland University of Technology
Year: 1995
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