Relevancy and Utility of Sociometry in Socio-Legal Research

Socio-Legal Research or Study is an event where the science of law meets that the science of society. This research requires a multidisciplinary approach to analyze and interpret the law, the legal phenomenon, the relationship between those two and also their relationship with the society in its widest sense. Socio-Legal Research has its theoretical, practical and methodological bases in the social sciences.

Law is an important aspect when it comes to any social investigation. The originates and functions in a society based upon the particular needs, customs, traditions of the society and it also possesses the ability to greatly influence the social structure and functions of any society. Therefore, just as researchers are clueless and hapless if they have no knowledge of even the basics of the law, legal system and the various important if not all the law institutions, legal researchers too would be clueless and hapless and would do no justice whatsoever to legal inquiry if they do not possess the basic knowledge and are not aware of the mechanics of social research methods. In societies where the development is planned, law plays the role of a catalyst which helps and speeds the process of social reform. Thus in a dynamic or developing society a legal researcher must adopt a multi-disciplinary approach as the legal problems in the society will be largely in connection with the social, economic, political and psychological issues.

In today’s world we will find that most lawyers, judges and jurists collectively agree upon the fact that legal research is a source of progression in the country, even though it may differ in qualitative terms when compared many other countries. Law, like all other disciplines can never be an isolated one. The legal rules and provisions that prevail are in relation to various real life factual situations that may potentially arise and so that those legal rules and provisions may be applied to produce certain desirable outcomes. The various intellectual disciplines such as history, science (both physical and social), religion and philosophy are related to and influence the factual situations are also connected to law.

Socio-Legal research or trans-disciplinary research does not present many problems or occupational hazards for the researchers or those who promote the research. The problem faced by the researchers and scholars arises almost exclusively from the depth of knowledge and awareness of the researcher in the field of law and all the other intellectual disciplines as well. For example, it has been observed that scholars/researchers of personal laws have used their knowledge and expertise in the same and applied it to their research and study of various religious literatures. Of course since lawyers and researchers are in the end human beings only, there is a limit to the number of disciplines one may attain expertise in.

Socio-Legal Research denotes the trans-disciplinary research combining law and other social sciences. The challenges faced by socio-legal researchers and scholars though manageable are not to be taken lightly. The most eminent problem is the fact that the number of social sciences that are recognized in today’s world are quite large and each of them have been researched upon and studied for a considerable period of time which has led to many sub-categorisations within a single discipline. For example, the study of economics is just one distinct discipline for the non-economists but in reality we find that economics has been further divided into various categories such as finance, economic theory, econometrics, economic history, economic policy, etc., and there are scholars who have specialized only or rather exclusively in one or maybe more of those sub-categories under the broad headed discipline of economics.

Socio-metric technique or test as one of the non-testing devices was first developed by J.L. Moreno and Hellen Jennings sometimes around 1960. It is a means of presenting simply and graphically the structure of social relations, lines of communication and the patterns of friendship, attractions and rejection that exist at a given time among members of a particular group.

Through this technique the counsellor or the guidance personnel can measure acceptance or rejection frequently between the members of the group. It is commonly observed that some students always like to stay together, some students are more liked by all students, some students aren’t liked by anyone and so on. These social relationships existing among them influence all aspects of their development.

Sociometry is a technique for describing the social relationships among individuals in a group. In an indirect way, sociometry attempts to describe attractions or repulsions between individuals by asking them to indicate whom they would choose or reject in various situations. Thus, sociometry is a new technique of studying the underlying motives of respondents. “Under this an attempt is made to trace the flow of information amongst groups and then examine the ways in which new ideas are diffused. Sociograms are constructed to identify leaders and followers.”

Sociograms are charts that depict the sociometric choices. There are many versions of the sociogram pattern and the reader is suggested to consult specialised references on sociometry for the purpose. This approach has been applied to the diffusion of ideas on drugs amongst medical practitioners.

Certain characteristics of socio-metric tool that make it a desirable and useful instrument are:

a)  The subjects should express themselves spontaneously in their choice of companions.

b)  Directions should be clear about tools and situations and the methods of recording choices.

c)  The confidential nature of choices made should be emphasized.

d)  Each student would have a companion out of the choices given by him.

e)  The word test cannot be used anywhere because it is associated with right and wrong answers and would probably distort the meaning of the choices of the students.

As in any research procedure, the use of the sociometric question requires attention to the general abilities of the subjects; to take an obvious example, children who cannot yet read or write will have to be interviewed. Under such circumstances the social setting for asking the questions must ensure privacy and confidentiality, and the interviewer should make sure that the child is not intimidated by, or made fearful of, the situation; otherwise, the validity of the responses may be affected. Collecting data through the sociometric question, however, is intrinsically a simple procedure and should be adaptable to most situations. Variations range from the use of a single question asking for a simple listing of choices on one criterion to a battery of questions in which ordered choices and rejections are requested on many criteria.

Sociomtery is a simple, economical and materisitic method of observation and data collection through questionnares and schedules. It is easy to administer. It has the virtue of considerable flexibility. It can be adopted to a wide variety of research. It improves social-relations. The sociometry is highly useful in indentifying leadership, attitudes, beliefs and values. It provides relatively acceptable indices for a large number of empirical concepts. It has implications for action research. It has interdisciplinary popularity.



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