Presentation on theme: "A (Brief) Introduction to Empirical Legal Scholarship"— Presentation transcript:
1 A (Brief) Introduction to Empirical Legal Scholarship Prepared by Mirya HolmanDuke University Law LibraryEmpirical Research Support
2 What is Empirical Legal Scholarship? Empirical: derived from experiment and observation rather than theoryLegal: of or pertaining to law; connected with the law or its administrationScholarship: learning; knowledge acquired by study; the academic attainments of a scholarEmpirical Legal Scholarship: Learning, knowledge, or studies that use experimentation or observation – rather than theory – to comment on the law or its administration.
3 Why Do Empirical Legal Scholarship? Relatively new field:Lots of opportunities to get publishedSignificant gaps in the literatureExciting avenues for researchIt is fun!Collaboration and co-authorship opportunities abound
4 Elements of Empirical Research Qualitative DataQuantitative DataStatistical AnalysisData Collection
5 Qualitative DataQualitative data is distinguished by being a set of unordered categoriesQualitative variables differ in quality, not quantity or magnitudeExamples include race, sex, political party, type of law firmQualitative data is often collected through observation, interviews, participation, or analysis of archival documentsQualitative research “provides often an unparalleled understanding of the motivations behind human behavior, desires and needs” (From the Association for Qualitative Research)
6 Quantitative Data Quantitative (or interval) data varies in magnitude. Each possible value of a quantitative variable is greater than or smaller than any other possible value.Example include years of education, income, length of time in court, amount of settlementQuantitative research is the systematic investigation of a wide variety of properties, their individual characteristics, and relationships.Quantitative research involves either measuring data, or using someone else’s measurement of data
7 Statistical Analysis What are statistics? Statistics are information about a subject expressed in numerical formBasic statistical information can includes the mean (or the average), the variance (the mathematical dispersion of a dataset), the range (the distance from the minimum to the maximum), and more.Advanced statistical information can include coefficients and standard errors from regression models, correlation statistics, fixed effects from time series models, and more.
8 Statistical Analysis, cont. Statistical analysis often involves the use of a statistical software package. These include:SPSSSASSTATARThese packages vary in capacity, in interface, and in cost.The Duke Law Empirical Research Support Program provides support for STATA.
9 Data CollectionCollection and use of data is very important in empirical research.A good dataset (or a collection of related data) can produce a wide variety of scholarship.For example: D-NOMINATE scores are a numerical representation of ideology in Congress, compiled and created by Kenneth Poole and Howard RosenthalThese scores have been used in over 100 articles and many books.
10 Empirical Legal Scholarship At Duke Duke University Law School has started an Empirical Research Support program to assist those interested in Empirical Legal ScholarshipContact Mirya Holman at or or Lauren Collins for more information.has information on:Empirical Legal ScholarshipStatistics trainingLinks to data sourcesComputer program training and support
11 General Resources for Empirical Legal Scholarship The Society for Empirical Legal Studies publishes:The Journal of Empirical Legal StudiesThe ELS Blog:UCLA’s Empirical Research Group provides access to an ELS bibliography, datasets, and general information.The Center for Empirical Legal Research in the Law at Washington University Lawcerl.wustl.edu/index.php
12 Steps to a good ELS paper 1. Start with a good research question!2. Look for existing datasetsIt is very frustrating to spend hours or days collecting or assembling data, only to find out that it is available somewhere3. If you cannot run the statistics, ask someone to helpPoorly done quantitative analysis, like any other analysis, is not worth doing4. Be aware of other disciplinesMany other social science disciplines have been doing empirical research decades; be sure to look outside the law for relevant literature. Also, the Social Science Research Institute at Duke can provide direct support, while Political Science, Public Policy, Economics, and other schools have professors that actively engage in this research.5. Get lots of feedback6. Send it out!