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Strathprints serves world leading Open Access research by the University of Strathclyde, including research by the Strathclyde Institute of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences (SIPBS), where research centres such as the Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Centre (IBioIC), the Cancer Research UK Formulation Unit, SeaBioTech and the Centre for Biophotonics are based.

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Shadow writing and participant observation : a study of criminal justice social work around sentencing

Halliday, Simon and Burns, Nicola and Hutton, Neil and McNeil, F. and Tata, Cyrus (2008) Shadow writing and participant observation : a study of criminal justice social work around sentencing. Journal of Law and Society, 35 (2). pp. 189-213. ISSN 0263-323X

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Abstract

The study of decision-making by public officials in administrative settings has been a mainstay of law and society scholarship for decades. The methodological challenges posed by this research agenda are well understood: how can socio-legal researchers get inside the heads of legal decision-makers in order to understand the uses of official discretion? This article describes an ethnographic technique the authors developed to help them penetrate the decision-making practices of criminal justice social workers in writing pre-sentence reports for the courts. This technique, called `shadow writing', involved a particular form of participant observation whereby the researcher mimicked the process of report writing in parallel with the social workers. By comparing these `shadow reports' with the real reports in a training-like setting, the social workers revealed in detail the subtleties of their communicative strategies embedded in particular reports and their sensibilities about report writing more generally.