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Social Science Research (for Lawyers): Overview

Covers local and web-based databases and resources for statistical and factual research in the social sciences.

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U.S. Government Printing Office

The Hunter Law Library has been a federal depository library since 1972, and its federal depository collections are open to public use. For assistance, please contact any reference librarian or Kory Staheli, the depository library coordinator.

Types of social science research materials

Extra-legal data is often used to support legal & policy arguments.

The three components of such research include:

1. Statistics or data

This is descriptive of human or societal behavior and activities, "what is."

2. Commentary or interpretative conclusions

These are analytical studies, books or articles on "what the data means." They are a mix of the statistics and conclusions.

3. Legal reform and policy arguments

These are additional commentaries arguing "what should be" (based on the above statistics and conclusions).

Social science research takes in material and databases in all three areas (stats, commentary and reform), coming from such areas as government, industry and academia.


Brandeis Brief (landmark example of social science research for a legal case)

Such medical, sociological or other social science statistics first were used substantially in the U.S. Supreme Court case of Muller v. Oregon, 208 U.S. 412 (1907). The brief in that case by Louis D. Brandeis and Josephine Goldmark relied on non-legal data, and became known as the Brandeis Brief.

This research guide is a short summary of BYU library and other resources helpful to law students, attorneys and law professors researching such social science data and commentaries.

Empirical Legal Research

If your research is dealing directly with and manipulating raw statistics related to law, you may want to look through portions of the following title:

Peter Cane & Herbert M. Kritzer, editors, The Oxford Handbook of Empirical Legal Research (2010), Law Library Third Floor K 235 .O938 2010

A related title is:

Peter Cane & Mark Tushnet, editors, The Oxford Handbook of Legal Studies (2005), Law & Religion Center, Fourth Floor, K 235 .O94 2005

Recommended Legal Resources

These are resources to which the Hunter Law Library or the Harold B. Lee Library has purchased a subscription. Most subscription licenses require off-campus access to be limited to BYU law students and faculty. Other patrons are welcome to use many of these resources by visiting the library premises.

Subject Guide

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