The article 'Inter-relation between Doctrinal and Non-Doctrinal Research' explores the symbiotic relationship between these two research methodologies.

The article 'Inter-relation between Doctrinal and Non-Doctrinal Research' explores the symbiotic relationship between these two research methodologies, highlighting their complementary roles in advancing legal knowledge.


The research method entails repeatedly seeking an answer until we achieve an unambiguous conclusion. It is a methodical research that comprises gathering data and crucial information, organizing it all, and then evaluating it to derive anything significant. The term 'research' originates from the French term 'recherché,' indicating 'thorough inspection'. So, if research is undertaken in any discipline, it involves looking into the subject matter to get a sense of it.

Legal research is conducted on a specific topic, that digs further into legal matters. It refers to the process of searching for and analyzing laws, their origins, their applications, and anything else that has even the most tenuous connection to the legal domain. We strive to find and assess the impact of all legal and illegal aspects on the legal process of decision-making.

Legal research is defined as “the discovery and collection of authorities bearing a question of law” by Black’s Law Dictionary. Legal research is an ongoing companion of those in the legal profession, whether they are attorneys, judges, legal scholars, law researchers, law students, or academicians. Several approaches can be taken to do research. They are said to be research methodologies. Research methodology is described as an organized method of resolving a research topic by acquiring data using various methodologies, offering an interpretation of the data that is acquired, and making decisions about the research’s data. The terms methodology and method shouldn’t be used interchangeably. The term method refers to the process of gathering the necessary information as well as the strategy used to accomplish this goal.

Doctrinal and Non-Doctrinal approaches are commonly used in legal study. The former is primarily focused on theoretical topics and academics and is thus referred to as “library” or “arm-chair” studies. The latter, on the other hand, is more realistic and uses an interdisciplinary method for research. As a result, it is often known as “empirical” research.

Doctrinal Research

Doctrinal research is being conducted on a legal proposition or statement by studying pre-existing statutes and judgments and utilizing reasoning power. Doctrinal research originates from the term 'doctrine,' which means 'principle' or 'normal governing tenet'. Doctrinal legal study entails delving further into legal concepts and principles from many sources, such as cases, legal precedents, legislation, and others, to examine them and establish valid conclusions.

Doctrinal study aims to answer the query, “What is law?” It is a book-based examination, which indicates that we perform a thorough study of law books, laws, statutes, inspections, and other legal literature to find unambiguous answers to legal questions. All of such sources are classified as “secondary sources.” As previously stated, it is a theoretical study that does not require any experiments or fieldwork. It starts with several legal propositions as a starting point, and the entire investigation is aimed at determining the soundness of the underlying hypothesis. It simply means examining and analyzing various legal documents and additional sources before deducing an adequate response to the initial question through rational interpretation and rational deduction. This is why doctrinal research is so popular among students and academics.

Purpose of Doctrinal Research

One of the most important objectives of doctrinal research is to solve legal challenges associated with the passage of legislation. For instance, if the government decides to implement comprehensive laws to address all crimes involving women, it may commission doctrinal research from lawyers and specialists in the field.

They may need to review all of the existing laws in the topic at hand, as well as past case laws, precedents, worldwide trends, legal commentary, scholarly publications, encyclopaedias, dictionaries, journals, treatises, books, and other legal information materials. They will be successful in addressing all of the queries about this law after wading through this ocean of material. It can also be used to assist lawmakers in developing significant and efficient laws, developing new legal doctrines, assisting courts in accomplishing efficient and legally precise decisions, assisting lawyers in interpreting statutes and preparing their suits, assisting students in academia in establishing a foundation, and many other purposes.


Within doctrinal research, the technique begins with establishing a premise as the beginning point. A specific legal provision or an existing statute could be used for this purpose. The next phase is likely to examine why that particular law was enacted. Constituent Assembly Debates, for example, could provide significant insight into a constitutional provision.

The law is then able to be researched in greater depth. Alternative paths can be investigated. Different models must be investigated, and lastly, the effects and approximated impacts have to be considered to produce accurate predictions regarding the proposition made at the outset. Secondary sources, as discussed in the preceding paragraphs, are used at all phases.

However, these sources must be chosen with caution. Finding dependable and accurate information takes time and effort. The existence of untrustworthy information can lead to inaccurate and incorrectly skewed outcomes, therefore useful information needs to be sorted from the chaff. The effectiveness of this strategy is also determined by the initial inquiry. The initial step towards actual investigation is to ask the correct question. The key to good doctrinal research is developing the appropriate proposition and then depending on the right sources.

Advantages of Doctrinal Research

There are various benefits of using doctrinal research methodology and they are as follows:

  1. At first, this doctrine is the standard approach for performing legal inquiry and is frequently taught in the initial phases of legal education. As a result, by that point, they begin their postgraduate study, and most legal scholars will be conversant with the procedures involved. Furthermore, there will be no scarcity of professionals who can provide young postgraduates with doctrinal research instruction.
  2. Second, because of its pervasiveness in law schools and law offices, research conducted under this methodology is more likely to be considered as possessing the characteristics of legal research.
  3. Thirdly, Doctrinal research is still ‘typical’ in legal loops, and many operational, undergraduate, and even higher-degree research will be constructed around it. Doctrinal research is the desired and required methodology for practical objectives and resolving everyday customer issues. The busy practitioner (the normal outcome of law schools) is preoccupied with the
    law ‘as it is’
    and rarely has time to investigate research which doesn’t fall within this framework and timeline.
  4. Lastly, Doctrinal research has greater control and predictability because it focuses on established sources. This may assist a postgraduate researcher in fulfilling deadlines by keeping surprises at bay.

Disadvantages of Doctrinal Research

There are several disadvantages levelled against the doctrinal research as mentioned below:

  1. At first, it is very academic, overly technical, uncritical, conservative, and inconsequential, and fails to take into account the social, economic, and political relevance of the legal process.
  2. Second, it should be acknowledged that doctrinal research is overly constrained in terms of topic matter. The field of law is becoming increasingly entwined with the greater societal context.
  3. Third, this framework includes legal & social theory, as well as other natural and social science-based techniques.
  4. Fourth, because it believes that the law exists in a literal doctrinal vacuum as opposed to within a societal structure or context, the doctrinal approach fails to offer a suitable foundation for addressing challenges that occur.
  5. Fifth, doctrinal research has been criticized as insignificant since it is frequently performed without proper consideration of the legal process’s social, economic, and political relevance.
  6. Lastly, it functions within society and has an impact on society. As a result, there is room for adopting and adapting various approaches used in other areas to gain a more lucid understanding of the law and its duties.

The Non-Doctrinal Research

Non-doctrinal research, commonly referred to be social-legal research, uses methods from different fields to gather empirical data that addresses research issues.

Non-doctrinal research approaches legal study from a multidisciplinary perspective. It applies methods and information from various disciplines to provide a complete approach to law. It draws its conclusions from sources of legal information. Observations, demonstrations, surveys, questionnaires, and other primary sources may be used. We study the practical dimensions of law, such as the impact of its application in non-legal disciplines or society as a whole, using these sources. The growing necessity to bring legal matters into the domain of actuality gave rise to non-doctrinal study. It was considered that legal research must concentrate on its practical use and how it performs and impacts people’s lives in the real world, rather than the academic component of analyzing written law.

Essentially, researchers select a legal factor, such as a law, and also a non-legal factor, such as social, economic, and political variables, and examine their relationship using data that can be either quantitative or qualitative. Its primary focus is on how the law operates in practice.

Purpose of Non-Doctrinal Research

The goal of a non-doctrinal study is to establish if a law is effective or how it impacts non-legal parts of society. Non-legal factors can also influence how legislation is applied. Sometimes a highly comprehensive law is enacted, but the context is such that its usefulness is hampered. For example, during an epidemic when the domestic marketplace is badly impacted by lockdown, a measure implemented to liberalize the country’s economy by exposing the market to foreign rivals may be viewed as disastrous. In regular circumstances, similar laws may have been enormously beneficial to the economy.

The government may now fund research to determine if the conditions are favourable for enacting such legislation. The research could involve gathering information regarding the state of the domestic marketplace and how it would be affected if the law turned true. Following the implementation of the law, research might be done to assess its repercussions and effects. Other behavioural sciences can be used to assist in this endeavour. It is more dependent on observation than theory since, under different conditions, theory stays unchanged but its application in practice changes, and it is critical to keep up with such modifications to keep the legislation updated and effective.


The methodology used corresponds to empirical research, which includes many modalities of observation and experimentation such as data collection through case studies, surveys, questionnaires, and so on. These include the primary sources, which provide us with first-hand information that may then be examined. This data can then be presented in bar graphs, pie charts, and other forms to conclude.

Advantages of Non-Doctrinal Research

There are various benefits of using non-doctrinal research methodology and they are as follows:

  1. It aids in determining the practical efficiency of laws in a variety of non-legal sectors.
  2. It is a useful instrument for assessing the effectiveness of the rule of law within society. Legal matters are better assessed when they are investigated thoroughly, taking into account all of the aspects that may affect them. Furthermore, when data is measured, it becomes more compelling and authentic.
  3. This concept is more credible because it is based on the primary sources of information.
  4. The non-doctrinal study teaches us what society genuinely requires, where laws are lacking, and what the reactions of individuals who are subjected to such laws are. All of these details provided through non-doctrinal research improve and simplify policymaking.

Disadvantages of Non-Doctrinal Research

There are several disadvantages levelled against the doctrinal research as mentioned below:

  1. Non-doctrinal research takes a long time. A significant amount of resources and time is needed for this form of research.
  2. Another issue faced while using a Non-doctrinal procedure is the availability of funds. Data collection can be a demanding process, and gathering the correct pool of knowledge across society can be fraught with inaccuracies.
  3. People have varying levels of understanding and information. As a result, information gathered through questionnaires and surveys may be slanted and deceptive.
  4. Furthermore, gathering primary data on some sensitive problems might be a hazardous endeavour for the researcher. Individual biases and prejudices of the researcher may also cloud the results.

Inter-relation between Doctrinal and Non-Doctrinal Research

  1. The doctrinal research is more on the theoretical side in nature, whereas non-doctrinal research is closer to reality.
  2. The logical or positivist system of thinking is the foundation of doctrinal research. Non-doctrinal research, on the other hand, is associated with the realism school of thinking.
  3. The secondary sources of information, including articles, commentaries, textbooks, and so on, are used in doctrinal study. Non-doctrinal research, on the other hand, relies on primary sources such as case studies, surveys, interviews, or empirical data.
  4. Non-doctrinal research includes fieldwork, whereas doctrinal research is the library-based armchair study that does not entail fieldwork.
  5. The Doctrinal research is primarily concerned with the issue “What is law?” and exclusively studies law. The non-doctrinal study, on the other hand, investigates the law about society and numerous non-legal issues that influence the law. It is a socio-legal investigation.
  6. The range of doctrinal research is limited when it comes to the law alone. Non-doctrinal research, on the other hand, has a broader reach and investigates law in depth.


Both types of legal research possess their merits and drawbacks. This indicates that neither of them is flawless or complete in and of themselves. One is based on theory, while the other is based on practice, and because theory cannot be given up for the sake of practice alone, both have distinct responsibilities in the context of legal study. Doctrinal research has aided in developing a fundamental understanding of legal concerns among the general public.

It has greatly aided lawyers and judges in judicial proceedings in developing valid arguments and reaching effective judgments. Tort law development is an excellent instance. Doctrinal research focused on “law as it is” has contributed to a wider public awareness of legal concerns. It has also aided in identifying gaps in current laws and statutes. The non-doctrinal study, on the other hand, concentrates on the law in operation in its natural setting, namely society. It could be very useful in studying the impact of laws on individuals and determining how to implement legal reforms.

As a result, these two kinds are mutually beneficial. Doctrinal research serves as the foundation upon which non-doctrinal research might be built. They must and should support one another. They can be utilized independently or in combination to conduct successful and relevant legal research.


[1] How to Write Research Methodology: Overview, Tips, and Techniques, Available Here

[2] Doctrinal and Non-Doctrinal Methods of Legal Research, Available Here

[3] Classifications of Legal Research Doctrinal and Non-Doctrinal Research, Available Here

[4] Essay: Benefits and Disadvantages of Different Research Methodologies as Tools for Conducting Independent Legal Research at Postgrad Level, Available Here

Laiba Tahreem

Laiba Tahreem

A final year humanities student of Jamia Hamdard University, New Delhi

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