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Access_open Linking Legal Scenarios to Empirical Data

Process-Tracing as a Methodology in Law

Journal Law and Method, September 2018
Authors Simone Schroff
AbstractAuthor's information

    Different legal rules can lead to the same observable outcome, making it difficult to identify the most influential rule. This article addresses this gap by focusing on how competing explanatory theories derived from a doctrinal analysis can be assessed using a methodology called process-tracing. One of process-tracing’s main uses is to link explanatory theories to empirical evidence, permitting an assessment of causal mechanisms’ practical impact in comparison to each other. This article demonstrates the potential and practical implementation of process-tracing in the context of empirical legal research. In addition to the core characteristics of process-tracing, the paper clarifies when process-tracing can add to a doctrinal analysis and the requirements which have to be met. Furthermore, the process of linking doctrinal work with empirical evidence relying on process-tracing is shown, using the example of copyright ownership in the broadcasting sector. As a result, this paper demonstrates the added value of a process-tracing analysis carried out in addition to doctrinal work, in particular the insights into industry practice it generates.


Simone Schroff
Ph.D., University of Plymouth, United Kingdom and Institute for Information Law, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
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