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Advanced Introduction to Empirical Legal Research

Herbert M. Kritzer

Herbert Kritzer presents a clear introduction to the history, methods and substance of empirical legal research (ELR). Quantitative methods dominate in empirical legal research, but an important segment of the field draws on qualitative methods, such as semi-structured interviews and observation. In this book both methodologies are explored alongside systematic data analysis. Offering an overview of the broad ELR literature, the institutions of the law, the central actors of the law, and the subjects of the law are each addressed in this highly readable account that will be essential reading for legal researchers.
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Methodology: Preliminary Issues

Herbert M. Kritzer


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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