multidisciplinary research • Et. Seq: The Harvard Law School Library Blog

New Research Guide: Law and Society

As I suspect is the case with many academic research librarians, I have several research guides that are “in progress.” Therefore, it is always exciting to finish one!  My latest guide, published today, is on Law and Society research (https://guides.library.harvard.edu/law-and-society).

I really enjoyed working on this guide, because, to me, multidisciplinary research is the ultimate exercise in language and semantics.  Legal scholars and sociology scholars may use completely different vocabulary to refer to and describe what may, in essence, be very similar concepts.  As a librarian, I have to figure out how to bridge those two vocabularies together so that searches for library materials are optimized for relevance.

Librarians spend a lot of time in the social science literature in library school; however, practicing academic law librarians rarely get a chance to look at much beyond legal periodicals and treatises.  This is too bad, because the literature in anthropology, sociology, linguistics, political science, history, philosophy, economics, and other areas can really help a researcher gain an understanding of law in a broader sense.  These disciplines can provide a framework for legal scholars to craft difficult, yet important, questions about law.  How does society benefit from law?  How does law contribute to the development of a community?  How should and do our understandings of history and ethics inform the development of a legal system?  In a societal sense, what does “justice” or “rule of law” mean, both theoretically and practically? What is the linguistic and social significance of legal terms of art?

If you are curious about the ways in which such questions can be addressed, I hope this new research guide can help direct you to library resources that are interesting and informative.  As always, I welcome your feedback.

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