Sharyn’s research interests extend broadly across the field of the sociology of law. She has undertaken widespread empirical research including interviews, surveys, observations on many aspects of the legal system and legal professions. Early work focussed on the legal profession, with special interest in women lawyers and gender and law. She has undertaken research on the regulatory aspects of law in studies of the legal regulation of medical science, specifically New Reproductive Technologies, and surrogacy arrangements. In collaboration with Emerita Professor Kathy Mack she has conducted empirical research on guilty pleas in the Australian criminal justice system. They are engaged in national multi-year research on the Australian judiciary and their courts: The Judicial Research Project.
Their current research project (funded by ARC Discovery Grant 150103663) examines emotion and emotional expression in judicial performance. Although judging is understood as unemotional, changing norms demand judicial emotional awareness and impose greater scrutiny of in-court judicial behaviour, creating practical tension for the judiciary and conceptual tension in understanding judging. Using surveys, interviews and observations of the Australian judiciary, and judicial performance evaluation data from the USA, this research explains when judicial emotion and emotional expression appear, assesses whether this enhances or detracts from judicial performance, considering impartiality and legitimacy of judicial authority, generating new knowledge about judicial decision making and judicial behaviour.
Sharyn is Matthew Flinders Distinguished Professor in the School of Social and Policy Studies and a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia. She has contributed to the Masters Program at the International Institute for the Sociology of Law, Oñati, Spain.