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Access_open Teaching Socio-Legal Research Methodology: Participant Observation. Special Issue on Active Learning and Teaching in Legal Education

Journal Law and Method, January 2019
Keywords Participant observation, sociolegal research, methodology, teaching
Authors Marc A. Simon Thomas
AbstractAuthor's information

    The basics of how to conduct participant observation are not taught in law schools. This is striking because this methodology has become a common feature of qualitative research and could be very useful in sociolegal research. For those interested in studying ‘law in practice’ instead of ‘law in the books’, qualitative research methods like participant observation are inevitable. However, participant observation is, at best, secondary in the literature on qualitative research in the sociolegal discipline, while there is no guidance on how to conduct this technique whatsoever.Therefore, this article is written with two audiences in mind: It should serve as a useful reference and guide for those who teach qualitative research methods in legal education and who are looking to enhance their knowledge and skills concerning participant observation; it is also meant to serve as a basic primer for the beginning sociolegal researcher who is about to become a participating observer for the first time.


Marc A. Simon Thomas
Utrecht University, School of Law, Institute of Jurisprudence, Constitutional and Administrative Law, Legal Theory; m.a.simonthomas@uu.nl.

Sanne Taekema

    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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