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Advanced Introduction to Legal Research Methods

Ernst Hirsch Ballin

Written by Ernst Hirsch Ballin, this original Advanced Introduction uncovers the foundations of legal research methods, an area of legal scholarship distinctly lacking in standardisation. The author shows how such methods differ along critical, empirical, and fundamental lines, and how our understanding of these is crucial to overcoming crises and restoring trust in the law. Key topics include a consideration of law as a normative language and an examination of the common objects of legal research.
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Common object of legal research

Ernst Hirsch Ballin


Obviously, every legal research project has to be delineated by its research questions. The aim of this book, within the confines of an introduction, is to advance our insight into what it means to do legal research; more specifically, how its object should be understood, and which methods can be discerned for researching this object. This advanced introduction deals, therefore, with underlying theoretical and methodological questions, which themselves belong to the realm of philosophy, especially philosophy of law and of science. What is presented here is not a how-to-do book for starting researchers; instead, we aspire to lay the foundations for judiciously designed legal research.

The various strands of legal research all have their own methodological features. But although methodologically different, these various features complement each other. This will surface most clearly when we turn our attention, in the sixth chapter, to the further development of law. The material object of these various strands, however, is the same: law in the sense of legal rules, together with the related institutions, decisions, principles and values.

Law is expressed in normative language that is intended to guide human behaviour. It is also apparent in human behaviour that is recognised as compliant with, or objecting to being guided by, law. Ferrajoli compares this duality with H.L.A. Hart’s distinction between the internal and external viewpoints of legal rules, Max Weber’s distinction between norms and facts, and the distinction commonly made between law in books and law in action.1 All these...

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