Enhancing Effective Legislative Research

  • Book Details
  • Summary

Volume: Single volume | Pages: 185 | Year Published: 2011

Publisher: Policy Analysis and Research Project (PARP)

Author: Akhere Benjamin |

Subject Matter
This is a book of essays covering research methods/techniques in legislative studies and legislative process

Purpose/Objective
The book is the product of a two-day seminar on Enhancing Legislative Research organized by PARP in conjunction with Nigerian Institute for Social and Economic Research (NISER). The central objectives of the exercise as reflected in the papers presented at the seminar and later published in the book are to refresh and sharpen skills on legislative research; keep the reader abreast of trending realities of legislative research and to benefit from practical issues of legislative processes through legislative activities of the National Assembly. The book is also unique for proffering "solutions to the problem of data collection and information gathering" in legislative studies; and for seeking to enhance skills in "data analysis and reporting"; in addition to deepening understanding on new research techniques, methodology and presentation. To achieve these, the book is divided into twelve (12) chapters as follows:

Gaps Identified
This is a book of essays based on the outcome of a seminar held 8 years ago (July 2010). The information contained in each chapter is quite useful and substantially relevant for legislative research even now. However, there are some information gaps that need updating. One significant information gap is that the PARP which organized the seminar is no longer in existence and has been replaced by the National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies (NILDS) with increased mandate beyond the scope of PARP. Furthermore, literature cited by authors are dated, being what were available as at 2010 a period of 8 years gap by now. It is therefore recommended that NILDS may wish to hold a seminar similar to the one which preceded the publication of the book. This will enable resource persons to avail the institute latest information on Legislative Research which can later form materials of an updated edition of the book

Recommendations

Reviewer: Professor Edoba B. Omoregie

Rank: Head, Legal Research Division

Department: Department of Legislative Support Services

Date Of Commencement: June 20, 2018

Date Of Completion: June 28, 2018

Chapter One
Chapter One - This chapter introduces the subject of legislative research. It explains what it means by first defining the term "research"; which according to its author, Solomon Akhere Benjamin, refers to "quest" or "investigation" "into an issue, event, or phenomenon". He explains that research is invariably motivated by the existence of a problem or set of problems for which solution is desirable. The author therefore conceptualized Legislative research "as the process of identifying and retrieving information to support legislative decision-making". The chapter identified a number of challenges of legislative research in Nigeria to include difficulty in data collection and gathering/access; funding challenges in embarking on primary data collection; failure to embrace proactive and futuristic research; and ethical challenges with legislative research, i.e. challenges with researchers having vested interest in the subject-matter of research exercise with the potential to compromise professionalism. The rest of the chapter is dedicated to offering brief insights into each of the remaining chapters of the book.

Chapter Two
Chapter two discusses comparative legislative research. Also referred to as cross-national comparative research method, the chapter explains the major focus of this research method, which is to compare and contrast similar practices in two or more countries' legislative institutions. The chapter explains the benefits of this research model to include: it "gives researchers means of confronting findings in an attempt to identify and illuminate similarities and differences" in the existing framework of countries used for comparison; it provides researchers greater understanding of why countries embrace other countries' best practices to make breakthroughs; it helps decision makers to focus on the right solutions in the several options available for solving social and economic problems of their national environment using strategic solutions from other cross-country settings; it enables researchers explore alternative solutions based on available range from other settings/environments

Chapter Three
This chapter explains the role of bureaucrats in legislative research against the background of the information they supply to legislators in the course of decision-making. The chapter examines the concept of research, its centrality in legislative activities, the principles guiding legislative research, and concludes with the challenges facing bureaucrats in legislative research some of which are skills/training gaps, funding gaps/infrastructural inadequacies, poor parliamentary leadership, unconducive working environment, among several other challenges

Chapter Four
Chapter Four discusses techniques for preparing research proposals. This is a highly important but technical matter which poses difficulty for many engaged in legislative research, and research generally. The author outlines the specific approach required in preparing a research proposal starting with title of the proposal, the abstract, introduction, statement of the problem, research justification, literature review, the methodology proposed to be used in the course of the research exercise, dissemination of research outcomes, budget and references. The chapter also emphasizes the need for timelines within which to accomplish the research exercise. The chapter gives some tips for preparing a good research proposal including the need for brevity, relevance of research proposal, needs gap which make the proposal imperative/relevant, need to focus on answerable research questions and need for strong theoretical/conceptual premise, among others.

Chapter Five
Chapter Five - This Chapter discusses technical approaches to collecting data for research. Technique or method of data collection is defined as "modes or rules of collecting information or data"; or "an orderly procedure to achieve this" purpose. According to the author, "methods and techniques are often used interchangeably", because they ultimately mean the same thing. In order to undertake effective research, search, collection and analysis of appropriate data and information are indispensable. Therefore, according to the author, data collection is at the heart of every research endeavor, especially policy research. Otherwise, reliance on mere intuitive judgment, without empirical support, can easily produce unreliable outcomes and make any policy decision based on it weak and undesirable. The chapter sets out data collection techniques used in quantitative research to include survey/questionnaire technique and experimental technique; while the technique used in qualitative research are documentary/content analysis, observational techniques, interviews, in-depth interviews, focus group discussion, participatory learning and action, and projective techniques. The chapter closes by emphasizing the need for data collection to be undertaken without bias, and for observance of the highest ethical standards in order to make the process reliable and collected data fit for purpose

Chapter Six
Chapter Six - This chapter reviews techniques of data analysis. It explains data analysis as "a practice in which data that has not been processed in order to be displayed in any sort of presentable form is ordered and organized so that useful information can be extracted from it". It identifies the various stages of data analysis as data cleaning, initial data analysis (assessment of data quality), and main data analysis. The chapter concludes "that the entire analysis process must be amenable to an audit process"; and that the "analysts or the entire research team must all through the data analysis process remain focused on the objectives of the analysis, for a particular data set can be used to explore many issues".

Chapter Seven
Chapter Seven - The chapter addresses Bill Scrutiny and Analysis. The author states that bill scrutiny "is part of bill analysis which gives general highlight of the relevance, suitability and necessity of a bill in relation to the particular subject matter". Where a bill does not conflict with an existing law, a short scrutiny report will suffice. Bill analysis on its part is a summary of a bill detailing the bill's history, background, sponsor, purpose and content. The author sets out the structure of bill scrutiny and analysis reports, as well as the various stages of a bill process leading to its passage into law. The chapter concludes that it is necessary that a bill passes through due process in the course of passage, and be exposed to the necessary scrutiny and analysis in order to ensure that the proposed legislation meets with its intended objectives of serving the interests of the people and society as a whole

Chapter Eight
Chapter Eight - The chapter explores the process of writing Research Report. According to the author (quoting from UNDP, 2000), a report is "an account of a particular event, situation, activity, programme/project of concern, interest or need which is provided based on due investigation and contains facts, opinions and recommendations on which to base effective decisions". The author cites the usefulness of a report to include: it gives opportunity to present ideas and findings; helps those who implement programmes and manage projects to see/review their works and responsibility clearly; provide information on programmes/projects for record purpose, and objectively indicates the future line of action in respect of each programme/project. The chapter notes that there are two types of report: Short and Long Reports. It identifies some important considerations in writing Research Report: accuracy, objectivity, simplicity, brevity, clarity, effectiveness, completeness and timeliness. It sets out the basic elements of a report: the problem investigated/objectives; methods of investigation; analysis, findings, strength and weakness; implications of the findings for theory, practice and/or policy. The chapter itemized the structural content of a research report as: cover and title page, abstract/executive summary; certification page (optional); acknowledgments (optional); dedication (optional); table of contents; list of illustrations (tables, figures, charts, plates, boxes); body of the report divided into chapters/sections; list of references/bibliography; appendices (optional). The chapter concludes on the note that a "piece of research work may be good", but "if it's poorly reported its worth may reduce drastically in significance"

Chapter Nine
Chapter Nine - The chapter discusses methods of formatting/designing legislative briefs. This is a highly technical aspect of legislative process requiring special skill to accomplish. The chapter emphasizes that to achieve its mandate, the legislature needs support in various ways in the course of legislative exercise. These are captured in technical formats such as policy briefs, which is a short document showing research findings on particular issues of interest to the legislature containing recommendations on how to address the findings. The chapter identifies knowledge management activities and resources that support legislators and legislative committees/activities such as the bill process, chamber process, oversight process, constituency relations and training activities

Chapter Ten
Chapter Ten - The chapter expertly discusses means by which research outputs are disseminated. It highlights the nexus between social science research and policy, and challenges of securing the attention of policy makers in research outcomes. Using the reporting mechanisms adopted by Nigerian Institute for Social and Economic Research (NISER) and Policy Analysis and Research Programme (PARP), the chapter identifies some of the approaches by which research outcomes are disseminated to policy makers and the general public as a whole. These include Technical Report, Policy Memorandum, Journal Publications, Conference Proceedings, Research Reports, Policy Analysis Series, Bulletin and Electronic Communication, among others. The chapter concludes that some of the challenges faced in the process of disseminating research outcomes include deciding on the appropriate medium, cost implications, post-delivery use/implementation of outcomes, stakeholders to receiver research outputs, politics of packaging research outcomes, among others

Chapter Eleven
Chapter Eleven - The chapter addresses the need for effective legislative research setting out some of the challenges faced in the process of legislative research and ways of overcoming those challenges. The author notes that the greatest challenge facing legislative research in Nigeria is the general lukewarm attitude of public policy makers and government to research findings. This is attributable to failure to appreciate the importance of research in policy formulation. Another problem is the low development of information technology as a tool for research. Still another challenge is the apparent reader-unfriendliness to research dissemination media. To enhance legislative research, the chapter provides a number of options including provisions of funds for research exercise, provision of information technology access, updating of library and library collection (both eLibrary and hard copies); increase reliance on data to solve complex policy challenges, and improve logistical provisioning to support research exercise

Chapter Twelve
Chapter Twelve - This is the concluding chapter. It offers an insight into the theme of each of the preceding chapters. It identifies some of the challenges faced in legislative research to include need for the National Assembly to engage specialist researchers, bill analysts and develop a data bank to aid legislative research efforts which can greatly improve the quality of legislations. The chapter also identifies frequency of attendance of conferences on parliamentary work as a way of strengthening legislative research. The chapter concludes by making some recommendations including providing adequate infrastructural facilities for the Department of Library Statistics and Research (DLRS) of the National Assembly, to enhance its performance. The Department is saddled with providing legislators with objective, reliable, timely and up to date information for various legislative activities. Other recommendations are that the National Assembly should ensure that researchers work with commissioned consultants in the course of programmes sponsored by the National Assembly; and that staff of research department are part of international parliamentary conferences especially on capacity building, among other recommendations