Methodology: Preliminary Issues
This chapter discusses several preliminary issues related to methodology: the split between quantitative and qualitative research, defining the research question, and key errors that can occur in empirical research.
An important and sometimes contested division exists between empirical legal research (ELR) that relies on data that are appropriate for statistical analysis, and ELR that relies on data that are analyzed without the use of statistical methods. I will refer to the two approaches as “styles” of research. The distinction between the two styles reflects a broad division that exists within many social science disciplines; within those disciplines there have been debates regarding the degree to which research based on qualitative methods should be part of the discipline’s core (see, for example, Almond 1988; Monroe 2006) and whether such research can be deemed “scientific.” Of course, that depends in significant part on how one defines “science” and whether one deems it important that a piece of research be labeled “scientific.”1 There is a literature that seeks to import perspectives from quantitative research into the design and execution of qualitative research (see particularly King, Keohane, and Verba 1994) but there is also an argument that quantitative research involves a process of interpretation that has more in common with the analysis of qualitative data than some are prepared to acknowledge (Kritzer 1996). Also, new computational technologies for analyzing textual materials may be blurring somewhat the distinction between qualitative and quantitative methods.
Although it is probably correct to say...
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