Methodology: Data Collection
In order to conduct empirical legal research (ELR), one must have data. For some ELR research, data may be obtained from a data archive or be downloaded from a government website, such as the website maintained by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP).1 The Interuniversity Consortium for Political and Social Research,2 mentioned earlier, maintains a large collection of law-related data, particularly data regarding criminal justice; the UK Data Archive has a similar collection of materials for the United Kingdom.3 The University of Cambridge Marshall Library maintains a list of data archives around the world.4 Although data archives were originally created as a way to store and disseminate quantitative data, there are also archival sources for qualitative data (see, for example, https://qdr.syr.edu/). In fact, the oldest academic data archive is probably the Human Relations Area Files, which was designed to disseminate ethnographic data5 and was founded in 1949. Many archives now offer online tools to analyze some or all of the data in the archive.
If the data needed for a project are not available, are incomplete, or are not up to date, the researcher will need to collect the data. There are many methods for data collection, both for quantitative data and for qualitative data. The following discussion is divided between methods of collecting quantitative data and methods for qualitative data. Importantly, the latter typically involves interviews and/or observation—methods that can also be used to collect quantitative data, although methods of...
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