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    Legal novices are generally not very well educated in the do’s and don’ts of empirical legal research. This article lays out the general principles and discusses the most important stumbling blocks on the way forward. The presentation starts at the formulation of a research question. Next, the methodology of descriptive research (operationalization and measurement, sampling and selection bias) is briefly addressed. The main part of the article discusses the methodology of explanatory research (causal inference, experimental and quasi-experimental research designs, statistical significance, effect size). Medical malpractice law is used as a central source of illustration.


Ben C.J. van Velthoven
Associate professor of Law and Economics at Leiden Law School. I wish to thank Nienke van der Linden, Ali Mohammad and Charlotte Vrendenbargh from Leiden Law School and two anonymous reviewers and the editors of this journal for helpful comments on earlier drafts.
Artikel

Access_open On Experiments in Empirical Legal Research

Journal Law and Method, March 2016
Authors Prof. dr. Kees van den Bos and Mr. Liesbeth Hulst B.Sc., M.Sc.
Abstract

    The current paper presents some observations on experiments in empirical legal research. The paper notes some strengths and weakness of the experimental method. The paper distinguishes between experiments run in controlled laboratory settings and experiments conducted in field settings and notes the different goals the different types of experiments generally have. The paper identifies important stumbling blocks that legal researchers who are new to setting up experiments may face and proposes that focusing the research in a constructive and independent way is important to overcome these problems. The necessity of running multiple studies to overcome other problems are discussed as well. When conducted in this way, experiments may serve an important role in the field of empirical legal studies and may help to further explore the exciting issues of law, society, and human behavior.


Prof. dr. Kees van den Bos

Mr. Liesbeth Hulst B.Sc., M.Sc.

    In this paper, an attempt is made to work out a methodology for comparative legal research, which goes beyond the ‘functional method’ or methodological scepticism.
    The starting point is the idea that we need a ‘toolbox’, not a fixed methodological road map, and that a lot of published, but largely unnoticed, research outside rule and case oriented comparative law offers varying approaches, which could usefully be applied in comparative research. Six methods have been identified: the functional method, the structural one, the analytical one, the law-in-context method, the historical method, and the common core method. Basically, it is the aim of the research and the research question that will determine which methods could be useful. Moreover, different methods may be combined, as they are complementary and not mutually exclusive.This paper focuses on scholarly comparative legal research, not on the use of foreign law by legislators or courts, but, of course, the methodological questions and answers will largely overlap.


Mark Van Hoecke
Professor of Comparative Law at Queen Mary University of London, and Professor of Legal Theory and Comparative Law at Ghent University

    Central to this contribution is the question whether Dworkin’s theory of constructive interpretation as a method of applying law for the judge, can be used as a method of legal-dogmatic research. Constructive interpretation is a method of legal interpretation that aims to find a normative unity in the diversity of rules that characterize a legal system. In order to find an answer to this question, the key elements of Dworkin’s theory are explained and applied to the author’s PhD research. Methodological difficulties that could give rise to problems when applying Dworkin’s theory, are investigated. In the end, the author concludes that since the judge and the scholar use quite the same methods when interpreting law, the principles of constructivism should fit legal research well, even though some aspects of Dworkin’s theory are difficult to operationalize in practice. As a leading notion however, constructivism constitutes a workable method of legal research.


Francisca Christina Wilhelmina de Graaf LL.M
Fanny de Graaf is a PhD candidate at the Faculty of Law, VU University.

mr.dr. Maria Geertruida IJzermans

    In this article I plead for utilitarianism as guideline for the editor. The article consists mostly of rebuttals of a number of traditional objections against utilitarianism. In particular (but not exclusively) the following objections are discussed:

    1. It is impossible to predict the consequences of legislative measures.

    2. Legislation should be evaluated procedurally (democratically), rather than by a substantive standard.

    3. Utilitarianism allows the sacrifice of the interests or even rights of some on behalf of those of others.

    4. Utilitarianism leads to results that are sometimes strongly counterintuitive.


    A substantial part of the article consists of a discussion of coherentism as method for, amongst others, normative reasoning.


Jaap Hage

    This paper raises two methodological questions from a philosophical perspective: (i) what is involved in a functionalist approach to law and (ii) what should be the focus of such an approach? To answer these questions, I will take two steps with both. To begin with, I argue that Pettit’s view on functionalist approaches may be made relevant for law; functionalist accounts target a virtual mechanism that explains why a system will be resilient under changes in either the system or its environment. Secondly, I make a distinction between two interpretations of his key-concept ‘resilience’, one in mechanical, the other in teleological terms. With regard to the second question I will take two steps as well. I argue why it does not make sense to ascribe wide functions to law, followed by a plea for a limited view on the function of law. This limited view is based on a teleological understanding of the law’s resilience. I argue that these two modes are interrelated in ways that are relevant for the interdisciplinary study of law.


Bert van Roermund

    In this article the Think-Aloud Method, a method used in problem solving research in Psychology, is used in legal research to gather data on how novices, expert beginners and experts read, structure and analyse legal decisions. In the Dutch legal system decisions by judges are a major source of law. So it is important that law students learn to read, structure and analyse legal decisions. However, reading and understanding a decision does not go without saying, it has to be learned. The data we gather using the Think-Aloud Method are used to improve instruction to support the effective and efficient learning of comprehending legal decisions. We describe the Think-Aloud Method, our experimental design and our approach for analysing the protocols.


Dr. Antoinette Muntjewerff
Dr. A. Muntjewerff is Assistant Professor of Legal Theory at the Faculty of Law at the University of Amsterdam. She has a Masters in Social Science, a Masters in Law, and a PhD in Computer Science & Law; she studied Computer Science (more specifically Artificial Intelligence).

    This article shows that the debate about the possibility and desirability of a rigid distinction between discovery and justification is being muddled because of differences and ambiguities in the way that different writers use the terms ‘discovery,’ ‘justification,’ and related terms. The article argues that merely distinguishing between ‘discovery’ and ‘justification’ is not precise enough, and that we should make a distinction between different elements within each of these contexts. I propose a six-fold classification, through which we can identify reasons, acts, and processes that play a role both in the context of discovery and in the context of justification. This six-fold classification enables us to move forward from debating whether discovery and justification can be rigidly separated, towards articulating how each element (reasons, acts, and processes) has a role to play in each of the contexts (discovery and justification), and how these elements and contexts are related.


Luiz Silveira
Artikel

Access_open Source-usage within doctrinal legal inquiry: choices, problems, and challenges

Journal Law and Method, June 2014
Keywords methodological challenges, doctrinal legal inquiry, source-usage, methodology, method
Authors Mr. Marnix Vincent Roderick Snel LLM, MA
AbstractAuthor's information

    This article provides an overview of the methodological challenges that scholars are confronted with in relation to use of legislation, case law and literature commentaries within doctrinal legal inquiry. Therefore it employs a systematic literature review and a supplementary explorative expert-consultation among legal scholars of Tilburg University. Although the scope of the research is still limited, it shows that doctrinal legal inquiry is subjected to more and other methodological challenges surrounding the source-usage than one might expect. This insight may contribute to the further development of the meta-discipline ’law and methodology’ and simultaneously allows for more methodological awareness among doctrinal legal scholars.


Mr. Marnix Vincent Roderick Snel LLM, MA
Marnix Snel is a PhD researcher at the Research Group ‘Methodology of law and legal scholarship’ at Tilburg University. I thank prof. Rob van Gestel, prof. Jan Vranken and Dr. Arie-Jan Kwak for their comments on earlier draft version of this article.

    Public law is sometimes said to deal with distributive justice. Such allocation issues are at least very dominant when public authorities grant only a limited number of public rights (authorizations, subsidies, etc.) and the number of applicants exceeds this maximum. The characteristics common to these ’limited public rights’ raise the question whether there are some general allocation rules applying to any allocation of limited public rights. This article shows how economic allocation theory can be helpful in constructing general allocation rules as a corollary of general legal principles. Allocation theory turns out to provide for general concepts and results clarifying general allocation rules and revealing mutual connections. Extending this allocation perspective from limited public rights to public law in general requires the hidden allocation issues in public law to be unveiled.


Johan Mr.dr. Wolswinkel
C.J. Wolswinkel LLM MSc PhD is Assistant Professor at the VU University Amsterdam and participates in the research programme Public Contracts: Law and Governance of the VU Centre for Law and Governance. This article expands some methodological issues developed in his PhD thesis De verdeling van schaarse publiekrechtelijke rechten. Op zoek naar algemene regels van verdelingsrecht (The Hague: Boom Juridische uitgevers 2013).

    This article addresses the problem of qualitative interviewing in the field of legal studies, and more precisely the practice of interviewing judges. In the last five years the authors of this article conducted two different research projects which involved interviewing judges as a research method. In this article the authors share their experience and views on the qualitative interviewing method, and provide the reader with an overview of the ‘ins’ and ‘outs’ attached to this tool, but also its advantages and disadvantages.


Urszula Jaremba
Urszula Jaremba is an Assistant Professor of EU Law at Erasmus School of Law (Erasmus University Rotterdam, the Netherlands)

Elaine Dr. Mak
Elaine Mak is Endowed Professor of Empirical Study of Public Law, in particular of Rule-of-Law Institutions, at Erasmus School of Law (Erasmus University Rotterdam, the Netherlands)

    Vrijwel alle rechtenstudenten krijgen vroeg of laat in hun studie de opdracht om eens een kijkje te nemen bij de rechtbank. Er is echter niet of nauwelijks literatuur over hoe ze dat zouden kunnen aanpakken. Dit artikel beoogt in die leemte te voorzien. Het doel is om studenten methodologische bagage mee te geven, waarmee een observatieopdracht op een hoger niveau kan worden getild. Promovendi of andere onderzoekers die observatieonderzoek willen verrichten, kunnen daar ook hun voordeel mee doen.


Nienke Doornbos
Met dank aan Nina Holvast, Antoinette Muntjewerff en Rob Schwitters voor hun suggesties ter verbetering van een eerdere versie van dit artikel.
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